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Trump ‘still doesn’t get it’ on COVID-19: Ex-Obama health official

Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi speak with Dr. Anand Parekh, Chief Medical Advisor at the Bipartisan Policy Center and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: There is a growing backlash this morning over the president's seemingly cavalier removal of his mask when he got back to the White House from his hospital stay last night. Health officials are warning not only about the message it sent but also that he runs the risk of infecting the White House staff with coronavirus. Dr. Anand Parekh is the Chief Medical Advisor at the Bipartisan Policy Center and also a Former Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Parekh, good to see you again. Just first off, your response to what you saw when the president took off his mask at the White House. Are we maybe reading too much into that?

DR ANAND PAREKH: Alexis, I think it's very, very important that particularly over the next couple of days while the president is infectious particularly, that he adheres to public health guidance, and that means everything from wearing masks to staying physically distant to, you know, having good respiratory etiquette, hand hygiene. There are hundreds of employees work on White House grounds, and anyone exposed will need to be quarantined. So, you know, in general, it's important that the president follow these public health guidelines, but it's really, really important right now, because he is still likely, Alexis, probably day six of his course right now still infectious, you know, I think he's still not out of the woods yet.

For him, I think we worry particularly about his age and given his risk factor sort of day seven to day 10 when the immune phase of the virus kicks in. Now, he's on a steroid, hopefully that'll blunt it, but he's not out of the woods, and certainly everyone around him has to be careful. He's going to need to be isolated and follow public health protocols.

BRIAN SOZZI: Doctor, let me read this tweet from the president we got about two hours ago. "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." Your response to that?

DR ANAND PAREKH: Yeah, it's apples and oranges. Totally different situation here in terms of what we know about flu, what we know about COVID-19. The mortality rate for COVID-19 significantly higher than flu. For flu, of course, we have a vaccine. We have a variety of treatments for COVID-19. We still await a vaccine. We still await more treatments. So, you know, it is very much an apples and oranges comparison.

It is an important point that all Americans should be getting a flu shot. We need to take flu off the table, particularly this fall and winter, so the health care system is not trying to deal with both COVID as well as flu, so that is an important point. But he still, Brian, doesn't get it, and I think that is the concern. I think we were all hoping that he would pull through, and he is, and it's great to see that he's seemingly feeling better.

But I think we were also hoping that he would be much more humbled and sobered after his experience in the hospital after 210,000 Americans have died. That he would send an important message that this is not something to be cavalier about. We need to take this seriously. We need to wear masks in public. We need to be physically distanced. We need to do all the things that he hasn't been doing, and so I think it is concerning to read some of the tweets that are coming out.

BRIAN SOZZI: Doctor, let's stay on this one. The president also said in a video he might be quote, "he may be immune to COVID-19." Have you seen that with any patients anywhere, and is that possible?

DR ANAND PAREKH: He shouldn't be making any scientific statements. I think, you know, the experts have been clear throughout this public health crisis. Sometimes he uses language he's not quite sure what he is saying. But no, right now, he is infectious. He's in day six of his bout with COVID-19. These are critical days for him. The rest of the week, he is ill, he is infectious. It's going to be really important to measure and note his oxygenation status. I think for his health, for the health of people around him, he needs to be focusing on recuperating and making sure that this outbreak, which was preventable, doesn't continue to spread across the White House.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And doctor, before we let you go, there's this report today the White House is trying to block new FDA rules over a coronavirus vaccine. What's behind that? Is this because they want to try to rush this vaccine to market ahead of the election maybe?

DR ANAND PAREKH: These are really non-controversial standards that the FDA has put out there as guidance to manufacturers. They want to make sure that the tens of thousands of Americans who are participating in clinical trials right now are followed for an adequate amount of time. They're saying a median of two months to ensure there aren't adverse events and to ensure that the effectiveness of the vaccine is longer than just short term, so they put out this information. I think manufacturers get it.

There's going to be an FDA advisory committee that's going to discuss this on October 22. This is really not something the White House should be getting involved with. It really seems like sort of the politicization of science, so the White House should just let the FDA do its job. The FDA knows how to do this.

The FDA works with manufacturers every day. They work with independent advisory committees, and so hopefully, we need to let that process stay out. Because, Alexis, at the end of the day, it's not just about vaccine approval, it's also about vaccine confidence and uptake, and we've seen some of the polls of the American public. Less and less people are saying that they are committing to definitely or probably getting a vaccine, so we need to build vaccine confidence in this country, and the way to do that is to let the FDA do its job.