News Brief: GOP Convention, COVID-19 Treatment, Wisconsin Shooting
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
What would President Trump do with four more years in office?
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Well, we will hear what Republicans have to say about that as their convention starts today. Like last week's Democratic convention, this will be a pandemic-altered event. The president will deliver his main speech from the White House instead of from a convention hall. It's believed the president is going to appear all four nights. And his party will back a platform that consists largely of the president himself. Republicans declined to draft a new platform, instead reendorsing the 2016 version and saying they enthusiastically support the president's agenda.
INSKEEP: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is with us. Good morning.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: What's this convention going to look like?
KEITH: Well, it certainly has changed a few times because of the pandemic and President Trump's desire to have a big, traditional convention. It will not be that. But a few hundred delegates are indeed in Charlotte, N.C., today in person for some scaled-back convention business. And then there will be primetime - a series of speeches and appearances, many from an auditorium in Washington, D.C. President Trump, as you say, will be appearing every night. And we can expect surprises, shock value. We don't really know what to expect, and that is part of their goal. The campaign says that they plan to highlight everyday Americans whose stories are filled with hope and patriotism. And that follows what President Trump and many Republicans have said was a dark Democratic convention.
INSKEEP: Well, let's figure out what the Republican vision would be compared to that. Here's what the president said people can expect.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I think we're going to see something that is going to be very uplifting and positive. That's what I'd like it to be. I think you have to defend yourself by talking about some of the lies.
INSKEEP: Didn't stay very uplifting very long in that actuality there, right, Tam?
KEITH: No. And President Trump has not delivered a particularly positive message most of the time. For instance, he recently said, if our opponents prevail, no one will be safe in our country, and no one will be spared. You know, the thing is President Trump is in power. He's president now. And there is high unemployment and a pandemic. So he needs to convince voters that he's the person to get things back on track. And as you say, there won't be this formal platform, but there is this agenda that the campaign put out yesterday which includes lines like, return to normal in 2021. Or as President Trump said on Fox last night, quote, "I would strengthen what we've done, and I would do new things."
INSKEEP: You noted, we noted that the president will appear all four nights - clearly the star of the convention. There'll be some other speakers whose last name is Trump. Anybody else going to get some of the airtime?
KEITH: Yes, there will be a lot of other speakers, including some sort of viral conservative social media stars, also party leaders like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy from the House, former United Nations U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley. And two Cabinet officials are set to speak, as well. And Trump will speak from the White House South Lawn on Thursday.
INSKEEP: I gather that a close presidential adviser will be gone.
KEITH: Yeah. Kellyanne Conway is speaking at the convention. But then she is leaving the White House to spend more time with her family. As she said in her statement, for her kids, this means less drama and more Mama. And she was supposed to have a campaign role but said that was too much.
INSKEEP: Tamara, thanks so much.
KEITH: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: NPR's Tamara Keith. And a program note for those listening to the radio - we will have live special coverage of the Republican convention all week. The roll call is at 11:30 Eastern Time this morning. And this evening's program begins at 9 p.m. Eastern, along with the latest updates you can find at npr.org.
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INSKEEP: Now, over the weekend, the president promoted a treatment for COVID-19
GREENE: Right. He said the FDA has given emergency authorization for a treatment called convalescent plasma. The president has hailed this as a breakthrough treatment. Here's a little context, though - thousands of COVID-19 patients have already been treated with it. Some doctors question its effectiveness.
INSKEEP: NPR's Allison Aubrey is following what we know so far. Hi there, Allison.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: OK. This becomes politicized because President Trump was suddenly promoting it. But let's just start here with the facts. How does this treatment work?
AUBREY: Sure, Steve. Well, convalescent plasma is really based on the idea that antibodies from people who have recovered from a disease - in this case, COVID-19 - can help protect people who are currently sick with the virus. So plasma is actually taken from recovered people and transfused into patients who are hospitalized, battling the virus now. Now, all of the experts I've spoken to say, look. This is not a magic bullet, but it is one more therapy that has been shown to be beneficial in some people.
Now, there has been concern that there's not enough data to show how effective it is and that there was pressure from Trump to approve it. But there are more studies underway now. And the thinking among administration officials seems to be this - it's safe. It looks promising, especially if people are treated early. Let hospitals keep using it. It was used at Mount Sinai in New York during the early months of the pandemic and at Houston Methodist. Now, doctors have more tools in their toolkit now. There's remdesivir. There's steroids. So you could think of plasma as one more tool to try.
INSKEEP: I'm confused by a couple of things here. Why is the president...
INSKEEP: ...Holding a press conference to promote something that appears to already be in use? Isn't that what you just said?
AUBREY: You know, it's expanding the use. It gets a little bit technical about how it was first authorized by the FDA. It's sort of like a group of doctors, spearheaded by a doctor at Mayo Clinic, got authorization for some hospitals to use it. The FDA was reviewing that data. Now they're saying, OK, emergency use authorization. Any hospital that wants to use it can. The idea is sort of - is a nod to expanded use, if you will.
INSKEEP: And I want to be clear on something else. The president spent a lot of time promoting hydroxychloroquine - I hope I'm pronouncing that correctly...
INSKEEP: ...Something that may or may not be helpful to some patients but also had side effects that can include death in some cases. It seemed to be really hyping the thing too much. Is this another example of that?
INSKEEP: Or can you say this drug is somewhat more in better repute?
AUBREY: You know what? I would not say that this is hydroxychloroquine part two. I mean, it seems problematic that - if the White House was pressuring for this to happen quickly for the FDA to get this emergency use authorization quickly. This treatment goes way back. It was used during past epidemics - the H1N1 flu epidemic. It was used back during the flu epidemic of a hundred years ago. So there's more history to it. And it's considered safe.
INSKEEP: OK. Good to know. Now, about the pandemic itself, where are we standing when we look at cases and deaths?
AUBREY: You know, big picture, Steve, new cases are declining over the last week or so. There's been about 44,000 new cases per day. That's a lot. But it's a significant decline compared to a month ago. There are still a lot of people dying - about a thousand deaths a day. And even as I say that number, I think, how can we think of this in a new way? I mean, think of it as 40 people every hour. Now, hospitalizations have begun to decline. So that's encouraging. But given that this virus is still circulating widely, it's a reminder to stay vigilant since we don't yet have a vaccine or a cure-all.
INSKEEP: OK, so that's the news about a treatment that may get used more. But let's look beyond that, Allison. Where do things stand on a vaccine?
AUBREY: Well, you know, over the weekend President Trump tweeted his latest conspiracy theory that really doesn't match the facts. He said that the FDA is making it difficult for drug companies to get people into vaccine trials, suggesting that there were political motivations at the agency to slow down the process and delay it until after the election. But former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says this just doesn't fit with reality. He says the FDA is guided by science, by its public health mission. And he says the process to test a vaccine is moving ahead quickly.
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SCOTT GOTTLIEB: The vaccine trials have enrolled very fast. Moderna and Pfizer, the two U.S. manufacturers who are the furthest ahead, enrolled 25,000 patients into those trials in the four weeks that those trials have been stood up. And they've really only been enrolling in earnest for three weeks. That's extraordinary. So to say that these products aren't moving at really historic pace, I think, is wrong.
AUBREY: And just a reminder - Scott Gottlieb was head of the FDA early in the Trump administration. And, you know, many public health experts just wince at the idea of politics getting in the way or the suggestion that the administration could fast track the process here.
INSKEEP: NPR's Allison Aubrey keeping our facts straight, as she has for months during this pandemic. Allison, thanks so much.
AUBREY: Thank you, Steve.
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INSKEEP: How did police come to shoot a black man in Wisconsin.
GREENE: Yeah, there's a video. And a man identified as Jacob Blake is seen walking away from three officers who have their guns drawn. He is then shot in the back multiple times as he attempts to enter his car. Blake was later airlifted to a Milwaukee hospital for treatment. Kenosha County declared an emergency curfew until 7 a.m. after outraged protesters filled the streets over this shooting.
INSKEEP: Let's go to reporter Kim Shine of the CBS affiliate WDJT-TV in Milwaukee. Welcome to the program. Thank you so much.
KIM SHINE: Good morning to you.
INSKEEP: Having watched this video - I know, sometimes, videos are - they seem absolutely clear. Sometimes, they're a little unclear. How obvious is it what's going on in this video?
SHINE: Honestly, I think it's pretty obvious. I mean, we don't know exactly everything that led up to this. But I think what you see in the video could be very well what actually happened. You see him walking to the car. You see the officer shooting. You hear the shots. We just don't know exactly what led up to that. I know people on scene when we were out - they were saying that it was a fight that he was breaking up. But why those shots happened - that's something we still need to figure out.
INSKEEP: OK. People on scene described some kind of a fight that they say he was breaking up. What are police saying about why they opened fire?
SHINE: Well, honestly, at this point, police are really being tight-lipped about it. They - all they told us at first was that it was a domestic incident that they responded to, and then that turned into the officer-involved shooting. They said that at this point, the DOJ is going to take over the investigation, and that's where we're supposed to get the rest of our information from. And hopefully, they do give us more. But at this point, that's pretty much all that they're telling.
INSKEEP: The DOJ, the federal Department of Justice - that's what you mean?
INSKEEP: Now, what has been the reaction so far from the public and from Wisconsin officials?
SHINE: People are angry, honestly. People are angry. People are hurt. We talked to - me myself and my photographer - we talked to people on scene who were protesting. And they say that this is happening way too much in their communities and communities across the nation. And they just want it to stop. And they don't understand why this has happened.
As far as state officials, our governor actually tweeted out a very, very humanizing statement on this, basically calling out elected officials and people who have not recognized the racism in the state and the fact that this continues to happen in Wisconsin and in states around the country. And he basically said, you know, we have to offer empathy and also action, not just ignoring what's going on in the world.
INSKEEP: I believe you have sound of one of the protesters. Is that right?
SHINE: Yeah. A lot of people were angry. And that's why some of the fires were set outside the courthouse and the police station. We talked to some protesters - one - his name is Jay (ph), actually. And he doesn't live in the area, but he lives nearby and says that he's just really, really angry. And I'd like for you guys to hear some of that sound.
JAY: I just feel angry and kind of hurt, you know, 'cause if you watched the video, it's just downright devilish, you know, what he did. So the energy out here is just anger. You know, we hurt. You know, we tired of going through this. It's about, you know, countless times now.
INSKEEP: One of the people in Wisconsin who spoke with reporter Kim Shine of CBS affiliate WDJT.
Kim, thanks so much.
SHINE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.