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Emails reveal ex Mac prof’s attempts to shape CDC’s COVID reporting

Things have moved quickly since last weekend when the New York Times broke the story about  a Dr. Strangelove-type meltdown by, Michael Caputo, who the Trump White House had inserted into the Centre for Disease Control to take over the agency’s communications. Caputo, who had no scientific or medical background, tapped Dr. Paul Akexander, a part-time McMaster professor in Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact to be his medical advisor. President Trump had been increasingly frustrated with the kind of COVID19 information the agency was giving to the media, much of it at odds with Trump’s overly optimistic predictions about the duration and severity of the pandemic. Between Caputo and Alexander they tried, not completely successfully, to get control of the CDC’s media relations and at the same time to have Alezander vet some of the medical reports being released by the agency. It all came crashing down this week after Caputo issued a wild statement in a  Facebook video in which he predicted armed insurrection after the election and encouraged his followers to stock up on ammunition. With that, Caputo want on a medical leave that will end sometime after the election, and Alexander is also gone– permanently.

The Times reported that CDC staff were bullied, and communications staffers were threatened with dismissal for arranging a National Public Radio interview with a CDC staffer. For his part, Alexander wrote a point by point critique of an interview given by Dr. Anne Schuchat, a 32-year veteran of the C.D.C. and its principal deputy director, in which she had appealed to Americans to wear masks and warned, “We have way too much virus across the country.” But Dr. Alexander, appeared sure he understood the coronavirus better.

“Her aim is to embarrass the president,” he wrote, commenting on Dr. Schuchat’s appeal for face masks in an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association. A portion of Alexanders critique of the interview follows. What is remarkable about the critique, which was written for Caputo, is that it appears to assume Caputo lacks even a basic understanding of the COVID pandemic. Much of the information in Alexander’s rebuttal is information ordinary Canadians have been getting on a daily basis in the various daily televised COVID briefings.

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