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Trump’s former pandemic coordinator suggests restrained response may have cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

In interviews broadcast on CNN Sunday night, former President Donald J. Trump’s pandemic officials confirmed in stark and no uncertain terms what was already an open secret in Washington: The administration’s pandemic response was riddled with dysfunction, and the discord, untruths and infighting most likely cost many lives.

Dr. Deborah L. Birx, Mr. Trump’s coronavirus response coordinator, suggested that hundreds of thousands of Americans may have died needlessly, and Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the testing czar, said the administration lied to the public about the availability of testing.

The comments were among a string of bombshells that emerged during a CNN special report that featured the doctors who led the government’s coronavirus response in 2020.

Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accused Mr. Trump’s health secretary, Alex M. Azar, and the secretary’s leadership team of pressuring him to revise scientific reports. “Now he may deny that, but it’s true,” Dr. Redfield said in an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent. Mr. Azar, in a statement, denied it.

“so attentive to the scientific literature” and for not publicly correcting the president as he made outlandish claims about unproven therapies, whose disclosures — in one of her first televised interviews since leaving the White House in January — may have been the most compelling.

As of Sunday, more than 548,000 Americans have died from infection with the coronavirus. “I look at it this way,” she said. “The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge.”

“All of the rest of them,” she said, referring to almost 450,000 deaths, “in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially” had the administration acted more aggressively.

She also described a “very uncomfortable, very direct and very difficult” phone call with Mr. Trump after she spoke out about the dangers of the virus last summer. “Everybody in the White House was upset with that interview,” she said.

After that, she decided to travel the country to talk to state and local leaders about masks and social distancing and other public health measures that the president didn’t want her to transmit to the American public from the White House podium.

Dr. Gupta asked if she was being censored. “Clearly someone was blocking me from doing it,” she said. “My understanding was I could not be national because the president might see it.”

Several of the officials, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci — who unlike the others is a career scientist and is now advising President Biden — blamed China, where the virus was first detected, for not being open enough with the United States. And several, including Dr. Redfield and Dr. Giroir, said early stumbles with testing — and the attitude within the White House that testing made the president look bad by driving up the number of case reports — were a serious problem in the administration’s response.

And the problems with testing went beyond simply Mr. Trump’s obsession with optics. Dr. Giroir said that the administration simply did not have as many tests as top officials claimed at the time.

“When we said there were millions of tests — there weren’t, right?” he said. “There were components of the test available but not the full deal.”

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Ex-C.D.C. Director Favors Debunked Covid-19 Origin Theory

The former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a CNN clip on Friday that he favored a theory, decried by many scientists and rejected as “extremely unlikely” by at least one World Health Organization international expert, that the coronavirus escaped from a lab in Wuhan. The former official, Dr. Robert Redfield, offered no evidence and emphasized that it was his opinion.

“I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory, escaped. The other people don’t believe that. That’s fine. Science will eventually figure it out,” Dr. Redfield told Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the video clip, referring to the origin of the virus. A formal report from the W.H.O. team and the Chinese scientists it worked with, on the origins of the pandemic and on the coronavirus in humans, is expected next week.

Despite Dr. Redfield’s comments, officials briefed on the intelligence say there is no new evidence that would cause American spy agencies to reassess their views. There is no new information that bolsters the so-called lab theory, according to officials briefed on the intelligence.

During the Trump administration, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and to a lesser extent the president himself, pushed the theory that the coronavirus had escaped from a lab.

the Director of National Intelligence in the Trump administration concurred “with the wide scientific consensus that the Covid-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified.”

Although that statement was diplomatically worded, the message from the intelligence agencies was clear that, despite pressure from the Trump administration, they had no evidence that the coronavirus had escaped from the lab. And many intelligence officials remained far more skeptical than Mr. Pompeo, telling colleagues there was simply not enough information to say where the coronavirus came from, and certainly not enough to challenge the scientific consensus that was skeptical of the lab theory.

The C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies have been skeptical that China was sharing all that it knew about the virus, although that was at least in part because of local officials withholding critical information from Beijing at key moments at the beginning of the outbreak.

wrote an open letter in early March when the W.H.O. team report was first anticipated demanding a thorough investigation of Chinese labs. Virologists who have studied the evolution of coronaviruses and the way they have jumped to humans in the past causing SARS and MERS continue to argue that the evidence for a natural origin apart from a lab leak is overwhelming.

The Chinese government, prominent Chinese scientists and many virologists, who study the evolution of viruses and the appearance of infectious diseases, have said the lab leak theory was very unlikely, citing genetic evidence and the many opportunities for natural infection in human interactions with animals like bats, where the virus is believed to have originated.

When Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, was asked at a White House news conference on the pandemic on Friday about Dr. Redfield’s comments, he noted that the remarks were only an opinion. Dr. Fauci said that there are different ways viruses could become adapted to humans.

“You know one of them is in the lab and one of them, which is the more likely, which most public health officials agree with, is that it likely was below the radar screen, spreading in the community in China for several weeks if not a month or more, which allowed it, when it first got recognized clinically to be pretty well adapted,” Dr. Fauci said.

At the same news conference on Friday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the current director of the C.D.C., said she was looking forward to reviewing the upcoming joint report from the W.H.O. experts and Chinese scientists.

“I don’t have any indication for or against either of the hypotheses that Dr. Fauci just outlined,” she said.

Zachary Montague and Isabella Grullón Paz contributed reporting.

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Maryland Lifts Many Covid Restrictions

Across Maryland on Wednesday, mayors, county executives, business owners and public health officials were parsing Gov. Larry Hogan’s surprise Tuesday announcement that he was loosening statewide Covid restrictions.

The order allows bars, restaurants, churches and gyms to open back up to full capacity starting Friday evening, though with certain social distancing regulations still in place. It also allows larger venues like banquet halls, theaters and sports stadiums to open to the public at 50 percent of capacity. The statewide mask mandate remains in effect.

“With the pace of vaccinations rapidly rising and our health metrics steadily improving, the lifting of these restrictions is a prudent, positive step in the right direction and an important part of our economic recovery,” Mr. Hogan said. He was joined at his announcement by Dr. Robert R. Redfield, a former director the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who is now a senior adviser to the governor.

Some business owners applauded the announcement as a sign that they may be able to begin crawling out of an economically punishing year. Public health experts were less welcoming.

said in a tweet that county “emergency powers and authorities” established during the pandemic were unaffected.

County and city officials spent Wednesday reading their local charters and talking with their lawyers about the situation.

In an emailed statement, Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski, Jr., said, “leaders across Maryland have been forced to scramble to meet with our legal teams, health officials, and neighboring jurisdictions to understand how this impacts our own executive orders and to determine if and how to use our own local authority moving forward.”

New York Times database, and somewhat above average in the number of new cases it has been reporting lately relative to its population — 13 per 100,000 residents. All three of the variants of the virus that are being tracked by the C.D.C. have been reported there, but only one in significant numbers: B.1.1.7, which was first identified in Britain and is more transmissible and possibly more lethal than earlier versions of the virus.

In the early days of the pandemic, Governor Hogan drew bipartisan praise for his aggressive response. He was among the first governors in the country to order schools closed, and he publicly criticized President Trump, a fellow Republican, for leaving states unprepared to deal with the pandemic. “I think a lot of us locally and around the country would have rated him very highly,” Dr. Wen, former Baltimore health commissioner, said.

Her estimation has fallen considerably since then. While she said she was pleased that Mr. Hogan did not lift his statewide mask order, as fellow Republican governors in Texas and Mississippi did last week, she called the broad lifting of capacity restrictions a dangerous gamble.

“It’s really disappointing, because we’ve come so far,” she said. “Why are we letting down our guard down when we’re so close?”

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