Shortly after issuing a bizarre rant on Facebook, Health Department official Michael Caputo has been placed on a sixty-day leave. Caputo was expected to be a major component of a Heath Department push to normalize a potential vaccine for the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, his rant, which he shared on Facebook Live three days ago, included claims that the US was being undermined by many scientists.
Caputo suggested, at points in the long-winded and rambling rant, that scientists in the US were guilty of “sedition”. This suggestion distressed top scientists like CDC director Robert Redford, who said the statements “greatly saddened” him.
He reminded the public that the CDC is made up of some of the best scientists in the world, who are working tirelessly to try to keep the American public safe.
Caputo’s sixty-day medical leave takes him out of the White House through the November 3 election. President Donald Trump has faced intense scrutiny and criticism over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Having a top member of the Health Department suggest that the country’s top scientists are conspiring against Trump hardly does the White House’s image any favors.
This week alone, Joe Biden’s campaign is spending $65 million on ads critical of Trump’s handling of the pandemic. Rather than comment on Caputo’s bizarre rant, White House Press Secretary Kayliegh McEnany changed the subject when pressed on his statements.
Some have suggested that his leave occurred against his wishes, as part of a strategy to maintain public trust in government health agencies.
Any potential vaccine will need widespread public support in order to be effective. The COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the US for no less than six months, and the economy has taken a beating due to it.
Trump has faced criticism that his own leadership failed to contain the virus in its critical early stages. This has been a major focus of the Biden campaign, who have doubled down on pinning the pandemic on Trump personally.
For any vaccine to be effective in curtailing the virus, it will need public support. Polling suggests many in the US fear that a potential vaccine could be dangerous due to the speed with which the candidates are being developed.
This, in turn, could prove to undermine public faith in any vaccine. With Caputo selected as the face of such a public relations effort, it’s easy to see why the Health Department may have asked him to step aside during this critical juncture for public health.