Jul 25, 2022 - Podcasts

WHO declares monkeypox a global health emergency

There are now more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox outside Africa, where the spread began, including nearly 3,000 cases in the US.

  • Plus: Trump’s revenge mindset.
  • And: a milestone for Indigenous people in India.

Guests: Axios' Adriel Bettelheim and Jonathan Swan.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Alex Sugiura, and Ben O'Brien. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Monday, July 25th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re watching today: Trump’s revenge mindset. Plus, a milestone for Indigenous people in India.

But first: the World Health Organization declares monkeypox a global health emergency, that’s today’s One Big Thing.

NIALA: There are now more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox outside Africa, where the spread began, including nearly 3000 in the US. So what do we need to know now? Here for a reality check on the state of this virus is Axios senior healthcare editor Adriel Bettelheim. Good morning Adriel.

ADRIEL BETTELHEIM: Hi, nice to be with you

NIALA: Adrian, what will happen as a result of this emergency declaration?

ADRIEL: Well, this declaration could conceivably free up more resources, more money for treatments. It also could put increased demand on supplies of vaccines, but it's partly just a global awareness. The condition has spread to more than 70 countries. This is something that, that has been around for decades, but has been largely confined to a fairly small part of Africa. So it just ratchets up the awareness. And of course, the Biden administration is weighing to do whether to do its own public health emergency in the aftermath of this.

NIALA: Adriel, you said that monkeypox had been confined to just a few countries in Africa. What caused it to spread so quickly?

ADRIEL: Well, this is something that's spread by intimate contact. It's concentrated in men who have sex with other men, especially multiple partners. And, the way that it has spread it, it's sort of a different strain than what was observed in Africa. What's happened is that's put enormous pressure on local public health departments and sexual health clinics where people often show up. The symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for other conditions like herpes or syphilis. So, the burden is really on the local folks to, to begin investigating, to isolate people, to get control of the virus and vaccinate people who were thought to come in contact with people who are confirmed to have it. So this is really echoes of the, uh, mobilization after COVID and, kind of adapting to fast changing circumstances.

NIALA: Primarily the risk group is men who have sex with men, as you said, is there any indication that monkeypox is spreading outside of that group?

ADRIEL: There have been some cases, not many, with children. And it's thought that children and immunocompromised adults could fare much worse if they get it, even though there's really very few deaths. So that is the concern that you get community spread, you get multiple variants, just like we've seen with COVID, and all of a sudden it's kind of raging unchecked and affects a larger cohort of people. This has been part of the strategy problem they've got is if you focus too much on the group it’s concentrated it’s now, you both risk stigmatizing them and perhaps, you know, taking a, too much of a blinders on approach when you have, a real nationwide and worldwide public health situation.

NIALA: What are the availability of vaccines? What does that look like in the US right now?

ADRIEL: Well, it's been coming in, you know, increasing amounts. I believe they're supposed to get something like another 750,000 doses by the end of this month. Uh, but much like the COVID pandemic, things started slowly. You know, I, I think while this isn’t a deadly condition it's, it's in a very serious way testing ways governments like the U.S. fortified their pandemic response after COVID. So it's really the, the first big non-COVID test of surveillance, testing, mobilization, that sort of thing.

NIALA: Adriel Bettelheim is the senior healthcare editor at Axios. Thanks, Adriel.

ADRIEL: Thanks so much.

After the break, the latest reporting from Jonathan Swan on former President Trump’s plans for a possible second term.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. Last week, we learned about Schedule F, an executive order at the heart of former President Trump's plan to fire tens of thousands of US government employees if he wins back the presidency in 2024. The plan would replace these workers with Trump allies and loyalists. Axios’ Jonathan Swan broke the story and has part two of the exclusive for us today. Hi, Jonathan.

JONATHAN SWAN: Hey, how are you.

NIALA: Jonathan, based on your reporting, it seems like a huge part of this plan is to hire new workers for the government not necessarily based on credentials, but on loyalty to President Trump and especially people who are eager to fight so-called culture wars. Why is that so important for former President Trump's team when they're thinking about building a new government?

JONATHAN: Well, it all goes back to Trump himself as I lay out in this second piece in the series. Trump's aids describe him crossing a psychological line late 2019, early 2020, when he was impeached for the first time. And after he was acquitted by the Senate, you might have thought, “oh, he's relieved.” He wasn't relieved at all. In fact, what he did was, he appointed John McEntee, who was then at the time, 29 years old, his former body man, as loyal to Trump as anyone could be, no experience whatsoever in, in, in the U.S. government. Trump appoints him to run the office of presidential personnel. And what happened in that last year of the Trump administration was Trump basically decided that he was no longer going to have anyone around him who would try to restrain him, push back against him. And one of the characteristics that I picked up as I did this reporting was that loyalty is only part of what they're looking for. They're actually deliberately seeking out recruits who are not chasing a long-term career in Washington. They want something different, which is people who, and one of McEntee’s, people on his team, Andrew Costa, actually said this to me on the record, they want people who've been “canceled.” They were looking for people who had chips on their shoulder, the deeper the chips, the better, and who felt they'd been wronged by the system. What Trump wants is people who don't care about all these other incentives that might make them willing to be a little milder when faced with heavy pushback from career bureaucrats. So that's why they're looking for people who are basically, in many cases and they would say this themselves radicalized.

NIALA: Since we aired our first interview with you on Friday's podcast uh, we heard from a lot of listeners and you have heard from a lot of readers. What are you hearing from the people who are reading your stories?

JONATHAN: It’s been astonishing actually. I've had more mail on this series than almost, I think, I don't think it's even close actually, than anything I've done before in my whole career. Democrats and some Republicans are terrified about what's coming and see this as people use the word fascist and, genuinely chilled by, by what I reported, and many, many, man

Republicans and conservatives are excited about this. And I will say one thing, which is that conservatives have had a long running criticism of the “administrative state.” The guy who actually came up with this idea for schedule F, his name's James Sherk, he was a Trump official, he's in, since leaving government has published this report called ‘Tales from the Swamp’, and it recounts all the ways in which federal bureaucrats across multiple departments, including Labor and Justice, resisted implementing Trump policies. And it is true. It's not that the resistance didn't exist. But the way that Trump plans to go about fighting it is more extreme than any president in recent history. So, if he does get back into power, I expect it to be really aggressive actions across multiple agencies.

NIALA: You can find Jonathan's reporting online at axios.com. To listen to the first part of our conversation you can check out Friday's episode and we'll include a link to both in our show notes. Axios’ Jonathan Swan. Thanks Jonathan.

JONATHAN: Thank you.

NIALA: One last story for you:

This morning Draupadi Murmu [[DRAW-paw-dee MOOR-mo]], became the first Indigenous person and the second woman to be sworn in as India’s president.

She’s a member of the BJP, Prime minister Narendra Modi’s political party that’s found success by building coalitions across India’s complex caste structure.

And while the role of president has much less power in India than that of prime minister, it’s a historic first for tribal people, who make up about ten percent of the population, with almost half living below the Indian poverty line, which amounts to less than 700 US dollars a year.

That’s it for us today! I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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