Secretary Azar visits testing site in N. Carolina

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar visited a coronavirus testing site at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina on Thursday. He also met with local health care leaders to discuss how to safely reopen the state. (May 21)

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Meet Trump’s CDC Director Who Has a History of Controversial Health Decisions

You might have seen him lurking behind Vice President press while he’s delivering an update on the administration’s efforts to contain the coronavirus. Or looking on as President Trump touts his own medical know-how during what’s meant to be an update on the administration’s efforts to contain the coronavirus.

He’s Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while Trump’s approach to the epidemic to date seems to involve minimizing the issue, Redfield oversees the federal agency tasked with actually responding to it. So who is he?

Redfield is no stranger to epidemics, seeing as he’s a virologist. When he was announced as the CDC director in 2018, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar cited his pioneering contributions to advancing our understanding of HIV/AIDS.

But some of those contributions have been controversial.

As the U.S. Army’s chief AIDS researcher in the 1980s, Redfield supported mandatory HIV screening for the military, which kept recruits from serving if they tested positive, and led to several active duty troops being segregated — a practice Redfield defended at the time as necessary to control the AIDS epidemic.

In 1992, the Defense Department investigated Redfield after he was accused of overselling the effects of an experimental HIV vaccine he oversaw. Though no evidence of misconduct was found, the vaccine ended up failing.

That same investigation criticized Redford for having an inappropriately close relationship with a non-profit founded by evangelical Christians, which worked to contain the HIV/AIDS outbreak by advocating for abstinence before marriage, rather than passing out condoms — a view he says he’s since changed.

When it comes to the U.S. response to the coronavirus, the CDC is playing catch up. And Redfield is one of the key people who’s going to be answering for it. The agency shipped its first test kits to state labs in February, a month after the world learned of the outbreak in China. But some of those kits were flawed, thanks to a contaminated reagent, leaving labs with inconclusive results.

As of March 9, the CDC and state health labs had conducted more than 8-and-a-half thousand tests, resulting in 423 confirmed cases. Compare that to the UK, which has a similar number of confirmed cases — 319 — but has managed to test nearly 25,000 people.

Those numbers are already out of date, but whatever they are by the time you read this, it’s likely that Trump will be seeking to downplay them.

That shouldn’t matter to the director of the CDC, whose first concern should be the health of Americans, not the health of his boss’s ego. So it’s not exactly inspiring when, on Trump’s visit to the CDC, Redfield said the most important thing he wanted to say … was a thank you to Trump, for visiting the CDC.

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Azar faces questions on virus during hearing

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar faced questions about the COVID-19 virus during his testimony before Congress about appropriations for his department. (Feb. 26)

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CDC: Not ‘if’ but ‘when’ coronavirus spreads in US

Health officials are delivering mixed messages about the likelihood of a serious coronavirus outbreak within the U.S. The CDC’s Anne Schuchat says it’s not a matter of “if” but “when,” while HHS Secretary Alex Azar says the virus is contained. (Feb. 25)

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HHS: More virus cases likely, US short on supplies

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar warned members of Congress there will be more coronavirus cases in the U.S. and there is currently a shortage of ventilators and masks. He pushed Congress for $2.5 billion to help fight an outbreak. (Feb. 25)

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US announces quarantine for Americans returning from Hubei province | AFP

“Any US citizen returning to the United States who has been in Hubei province in the previous 14 days, will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine,” says the secretary of the Health and Human Services department, Alex Azar. The US says it is declaring a public health emergency and temporarily banning the entry of foreign nationals who have traveled to China over the past two weeks to contain the spread of a deadly new virus. SOUNDBITE

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Foreign nationals who traveled to China in past 2 weeks banned entry to US | AFP

“Foreign nationals, other than immediate family of US citizens and permanent residents who have traveled in China within the last 14 days will be denied entry into the United States for this time,” says Alex Azar, secretary of the Health and Human Services department. SOUNDBITE

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Azar calls on Congress to help border child care

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is calling on Congress to come up with a “unified package” to help fund the care of unaccompanied children being held at the southern border. (June 24)

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Trump Touts ‘Important’ State of the Union

US President Donald Trump says his State of the Union speech is “a big speech, an important speech.” The remarks came after Alex Azar (AY’-zahr) was sworn in at the White House to head the Department of Health and Human Services. (Jan. 29)

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