New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference alongside the National Guard at the Jacob Javits Center that will house a temporary hospital in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Monday, March 23, 2020, in New York. New York City hospitals are just 10 days from running out of “really basic supplies,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said late Sunday. De Blasio has called upon the federal government to boost the city’s quickly dwindling supply of protective equipment. The city also faces a potentially deadly dearth of ventilators to treat those infected by the coronavirus. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
On Sunday reports began to surface that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) had granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for the anti-viral drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. Politico characterized the drugs in their report (emphasis mine) as, “decades-old malaria drugs championed by President Donald Trump for coronavirus treatment despite scant evidence.”
This is a very good thing the FDA did because it grants doctors the nation over the ability to prescribe these drugs “when a clinical trial is not available or feasible” according to the text of the EUA. And I highlighted that last part from the Politico report for a reason because ever since Trump mentioned in his Coronavirus Task Force briefing Sunday that the clinical trial of the drugs in New York began “two days ago,” I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
Because that clinical trial was supposed to have begun on Tuesday of last week, not Friday. It was widely touted by major news outlets that it was beginning Tuesday (here’s one. And another. There are a bunch of others a Google search away if you care to look.); I even wrote about it last week at Townhall. And, as this ABC News report notes, citing a release from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, the state had received the meds by Tuesday in time for the trial.
The state acquired 70,000 doses of hydroxychloroquine, 10,000 doses of zithromax and 750,000 doses of chloroquine in the last few days, according to a news release by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
“We hope for optimistic results,” Cuomo said during a press conference Tuesday, talking about the clinical trials. “The president and the FDA accelerated that drug coming to New York so the hospitals will start using that drug today.”
But hospitals didn’t start using the drug Tuesday. By Wednesday, Cuomo was singing a very different tune, saying he was eager to get the trial started and thought it might happen sometime the following week.
But, as mentioned above, that didn’t happen either. Because something changed by Friday to convince Cuomo to start the trials if Trump’s statement Sunday that it had been going on for two days is accurate.
For what it’s worth, there was a pretty testy battle that began to be reported Saturday morning (but could have been floated earlier) that Trump was considering a mandatory lockdown of the state of New York.
Early in the day Saturday, Trump said this:
“I’m thinking about that right now. We might not have to do it but there’s a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine,” Trump told reporters at the White House Saturday. “Short-term, two week on New York, probably New Jersey and certain parts of Connecticut.”
By later in the day, Trump had backed off that plan, but not before Cuomo could register his displeasure. He threatened to sue if the administration went through with their plan, saying:
“A lockdown is what they did in Wuhan, China,” Cuomo said. “We’re not in China, and we’re not in Wuhan. I don’t believe it would be legal. I believe it would be illegal.”
Just to round this all out, on Monday, March 30, Trump said we should have data — presumably that would amount to more than scant evidence — on whether or not hydroxychloroquine works to treat coronavirus in roughly three days, so certainly by week’s end.
So here are a few questions about this odd and ever-shifting timeline for clinical trials of the possible “game-changer” anti-malarial drugs in New York: why the delay? And why the decision to go ahead and get it started Friday instead of the following week as Cuomo first said once the Tuesday date had passed? Was it all just a matter of logistics, or was there a political battle behind the scenes that Trump eventually won?
It’s all just theater, of course. And in some important ways it doesn’t matter because the trial in New York has begun and that’s a wonderful thing.
But it could speak volumes about these two leaders if (and that’s a big if, because I’m not making allegations; I’m simply asking questions) it turns out that the one who has had the reputation of doing all the right things was playing politics with a desperately needed treatment while the other who has the reputation of being a loud-mouthed and nearly constant braggart quietly won a decisive battle and never breathed a word of it.