Feb 7, 2019

Exclusive: Top EPA official leaves to start new advocacy group

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Mandy Gunasekara, who has been instrumental in crafting President Trump’s regulatory rollbacks on a range of air pollution standards, is leaving the Environmental Protection Agency to start a new political advocacy group defending those policies.

Driving the news: Gunasekara, deputy assistant administrator in EPA’s air office, is sending her resignation letter to Trump Friday, according to a copy viewed by Axios. 

What’s next: In her letter to Trump, Gunasekara didn’t get into details about her new organization other than to say it will defend “you and the many energy, regulatory and economic successes of your bold and pragmatic agenda.” It’s expected to be a nonprofit with a c(4) tax status, which means, among other things, that its donors can be anonymous. 

The big picture: Gunasekara, who describes herself in the letter as a conservative Mississippian, is one of several Trump administration officials in the environmental space who used to work for Sen. James Inhofe (R.-Okla.). Inhofe has been one of the most outspoken lawmakers who does not acknowledge the scientific consensus that human activity is a main driver of global warming.

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Trump weighs quarantine of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Trump said on Saturday he is considering a "short term" quarantine of New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut — states that have already taken steps to quarantine residents and promote social distancing.

The big picture: With 112,000 people infected, the U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, exceeding China and Italy, per data from Johns Hopkins. A second wave of American cities, including Boston, Detroit, New Orleans and Philadelphia, are reporting influxes of cases.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 15 mins ago - Health

Q&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the U.S., Axios is answering readers' questions about the pandemic — how it spreads, who's at risk, and what you can do to stay safe.

What's new: This week, we answer five questions on smokers' vulnerability, food safety, visiting older parents, hair cut needs, and rural vs. urban impact.

The other coronavirus test we need

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Researchers are racing to develop tests that detect whether someone may have developed immunity to the coronavirus, which could help society return to normal faster.

Why it matters: These tests could help people know if they are able to go back to work, as well as aid researchers in tracking the scale and death rate of the disease — key data for current and future pandemic policies.

Go deeperArrow43 mins ago - Health