WASHINGTON — President Trump, faced with multiple crises and falling poll numbers less than five months before the presidential election, is prodding top health officials to move faster on a historically ambitious timeline to approve a coronavirus vaccine by year’s end.
The goal is to instill confidence among voters that the virus can be tamed and the economy fully reopened under Trump’s stewardship.
In a meeting last month with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar — who is overseeing the effort called Operation Warp Speed, along with Defense Secretary Mark Esper — Trump pushed Azar repeatedly to speed up the already unprecedented timeline, according to two senior White House officials familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. Trump wants some people to be able to get the vaccine sooner than the end of the year to demonstrate that an end to the pandemic is within reach, according to those officials and two others.
Trump is hardly the only world leader racing to deliver a vaccine as a way to save lives, get people back to work and fully reopen the economy. But some scientists and even several people close to the White House worry that his fixation on the timeline, combined with his past dismissal of scientists’ recommendations, could put regulators under intense pressure to approve some sort of limited use of a vaccine before it has been adequately vetted for safety and effectiveness.
Some go so far as to raise concerns about an ‘‘October surprise’’ in which the administration issues an emergency authorization for a vaccine right before the Nov. 3 election, regardless of whether the research justifies it.
‘‘What worries me is we are coming up to an election, and the administration might be tempted to put its hand into the Warp Speed bucket, and say we have enough information, let’s just give it now,’’ said Paul Offit, a vaccine expert at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who is an adviser to the National Institutes of Health effort on vaccines.
Pelosi says masks requiredat House hearings
WASHINGTON — Masks have become the norm inside the House of Representatives, where some politicians now embrace the novel coronavirus precaution with colorful odes to their home districts. But there are holdouts: a small group of Republican representatives who have consistently declined to wear face coverings in Congress.
Now, as nine states hit record highs for infections, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, is tightening the rules. Late Tuesday, she asked committee chairs to require masks at all hearings — and authorized the sergeant at arms to bar anyone who refuses to cover their face, according to a senior aide familiar with the request.
‘‘This requirement will be enforced by the Sergeant at Arms and non-compliant Members will be denied entry,’’ the senior aide said in an e-mail to The Washington Post. ‘‘Ultimately, Chairs will have the option of not recognizing Members in committee proceedings that fail to comply with the mask requirement.’’
The change could set off new political tensions around face coverings, which have become politicized as President Trump consistently declines to wear masks in public and mocks his political opponents for doing so. In the Illinois House last month, a GOP representative was thrown out for refusing to mask up — a preview of what could happen if prominent holdouts push the envelope in hearings this week.
As Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on police reform kicked off, some of the GOP holdouts, including the panel’s ranking member, Ohio Representative Jim Jordan could be seen wearing face masks inside the hearing room.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, the panel’s chairman, began the meeting by making note of the new rules and warning members that those who refuse to wear masks will be asked to participate remotely.
The new rules are academic for most politicians in both parties, who have largely embraced masks in the House since the early days of the pandemic. But Jordan and a handful of other Republicans have resisted face coverings.
Medical workers urge Ariz. governor to take steps
PHOENIX — A group of Arizona medical professionals is urging Republican Governor Doug Ducey to take steps like requiring masks in public to slow a major increase in new coronavirus cases that has made the state a national hot spot.
The state’s top Democratic politicians are also on board, with everyone from US Senator Kyrsten Sinema to mayors pushing for tougher action.
The state’s biggest newspaper, The Arizona Republic, is also sounding alarms and calling for action.
So far, Ducey has resisted. Since he allowed the state’s stay-home and most business closure orders to expire in mid-May, the second-term governor has taken no new steps to rein in activities like raging bar scenes and the lack of mask-wearing by many people in stores, restaurants, and other public spaces.
The rising numbers may force his hand. Arizona hospitals were treating a record number of coronavirus patients Tuesday amid a surge of new cases. The state’s Health Services Department reported a record number of emergency room visits for the virus as well.
The health agency confirmed 1,827 new cases and 20 new deaths Wednesday. That brings the total cases to 40,924 and deaths to 1,239.