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Michael Caputo in Washington, D.C. in May 2018. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Michael Caputo is taking a 60 day leave of absence "to focus on his health and the well-being of his family," the agency said in a statement on Wednesday.

Driving the news: Caputo baselessly accused career scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a Facebook livestream on Sunday of gathering a "resistance unit" for "sedition" against President Trump, the New York Times reported on Tuesday. He apologized to staff on Tuesday, according to Politico.

  • In the same Facebook livestream, Caputo — a former Trump campaign official with no scientific background — encouraged followers to buy ammunition in the event that Joe Biden loses the election and refuses to concede. "And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” Caputo said.
  • Caputo also said he feels his "mental health has definitely failed" in part due to critical media coverage, and sounded "anguished" over the coronavirus death toll, per the Times.

The big picture: Caputo's leave of absence comes on the tails of a House investigation into allegations that he and other political appointees pressured CDC officials "to block the publication of accurate scientific reports" on the coronavirus. Paul Alexander, Caputo's senior adviser, is leaving the department, HHS also announced.

  • Alexander is one of the political appointees to the HHS who "openly complained that the agency’s reports would undermine President Donald Trump's optimistic messages” on the coronavirus, Politico’s Dan Diamond reported last week, citing internal emails.
  • Alexander reportedly accused the authors of the CDC's weekly COVID-19 reports of trying to "hurt the President."

Go deeper

Families sue California over remote learning pandemic measures

A student works on his laptop in his socially distanced protective learning pod at a remote learning hub in Culver City, California. Photo: Mario Tama via Getty

Seven families filed a lawsuit in California Monday, alleging that the state has failed to ensure "basic educational equality" during the pandemic, which has forced millions of students into remote learning.

Why it matters: Remote learning puts students of color and low-income students at greater disadvantages, reports show. As the U.S. continues to debate the issue of reopening schools, it's the marginalized students who are suffering the costs.

Nov 30, 2020 - Health

Young people's next big COVID test

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Young, healthy people will be at the back of the line for coronavirus vaccines, and they'll have to maintain their sense of urgency as they wait their turn — otherwise, vaccinations won't be as effective in bringing the pandemic to a close.

The big picture: "It’s great young people are anticipating the vaccine," said Jewel Mullen, associate dean for health equity at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. But the prospect of that enthusiasm waning is "a cause for concern," she said.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus may have been in U.S. in December 2019, study finds — Hospital crisis deepens as holiday season nears.
  2. Politics: Bipartisan group of senators unveil $908 billion COVID stimulus proposalFDA chief was called to West Wing to explain why agency hasn't moved faster on vaccine — The words that actually persuade people on the pandemic
  3. Vaccine: Moderna to file for FDA emergency use authorizationVaccinating rural America won't be easy — Being last in the vaccine queue is young people's next big COVID test.
  4. States: Cuomo orders emergency hospital protocols as New York's COVID capacity dwindles.
  5. World: European regulators to assess first COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 29
  6. 🎧 Podcast: The state of play of the top vaccines.