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

21 hours ago - World

Trudeau: Canada's coronavirus second wave has begun

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during an August news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada. Photo: Dave Chan/AFP via Getty Images

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a televised address on the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday that for Canada's four biggest provinces, "the second wave isn’t just starting, it's already under way."

Driving the news: Daily case numbers have gone from roughly 300 cases a day in mid-August to 1,248 by Tuesday, with most outbreaks in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, CBC notes. "We're on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring," Trudeau said. "It's all too likely we won't be gathering for Thanksgiving, but we still have a shot at Christmas." Over 147,700 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19.

Coronavirus cases rise in 22 states

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Note: Texas added a backlog of cases on Sept. 22, removing that from the 7-day average Texas' cases increased 28.3%; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

The coronavirus is surging once again across the U.S., with cases rising in 22 states over the past week.

The big picture: There isn't one big event or sudden occurrence that explains this increase. We simply have never done a very good job containing the virus, despite losing 200,000 lives in just the past six months, and this is what that persistent failure looks like.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. EST: 32,135,220 — Total deaths: 981,660 — Total recoveries: 22,149,441Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m EST: 6,975,980 — Total deaths: 202,738 — Total recoveries: 2,710,183 — Total tests: 98,481,026Map.
  3. Politics: House Democrats prepare new $2.4 trillion coronavirus relief package.
  4. Health: Cases are surging again in 22 states — New York will conduct its own review of coronavirus vaccine.
  5. Business: America is closing out its strongest quarter of economic growth.
  6. Technology: 2020 tech solutions may be sapping our resolve to beat the pandemic.
  7. Sports: Pac-12 will play this fall despite ongoing pandemic — Here's what college basketball will look like this season.
  8. Science: Global coronavirus vaccine initiative launches without U.S. or China — During COVID-19 shutdown, a common sparrow changed its song.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!