Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 3, 2020

North Korea, South Korea exchange gunfire across DMZ, Coronavirus trends continue to vary significantly by country, and more

1

North Korea, South Korea exchange gunfire across DMZ

Gunshots were fired Sunday morning from the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone, striking a guard post in South Korea. South Korea, which reported no casualties, responded by firing two shots toward North Korea. The two countries are technically still in a state of war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty, and they've exchanged fire in similar fashion on occasion, but Seoul is reportedly perplexed by the timing of the latest incident. The gunfire comes one day after North Korea reported the first public appearance by its leader, Kim Jong Un, in three weeks, mostly squashing rumors that he was in ill heath or had died.

2

Coronavirus trends continue to vary significantly by country

Spain on Sunday recorded 164 coronavirus deaths in the previous 24 hours, the hard-hit country's lowest one day death total since March 18. South Korea, meanwhile, recorded just 13 new cases and no deaths. Both countries are beginning to ease some restrictions. But countries like Russia are just now seeing record increases — Moscow reported 10,000 new cases in the country for the first time Sunday, while India also recorded its largest single-day jump of 2,600 infections. World Health Organization data shows the United States suffered its largest daily fatality increase Friday after recording 2,909 deaths in 24 hours, and the United Kingdom's confirmed death toll is approaching that of Italy, the epicenter of Europe's outbreak.

3

FDA grants Roche coronavirus antibody test emergency use approval

The Food and Drug Administration cleared a coronavirus antibody test produced by Swiss diagnostics giant Roche for emergency use, the company said Sunday. The test identifies via blood samples antibodies made by the body to fight off the coronavirus. It could therefore determine whether a person had been infected with the virus in the past, even if the infection subsided. There are questions about the accuracy of many available commercial antibody tests so far, but they're considered crucial for better understanding both the true extant of the pandemic, as well as possible length of immunity to the virus. Roche says its test has proven 100 percent accurate at detecting antibodies in the blood and 99.8 percent accurate at ruling out the presence of those antibodies.

4

Reade says she isn't ready to respond to Biden's denial

Tara Reade, the former Senate aide who has accused former Vice President Joe Biden of sexually assaulting her in 1993 while she was on his staff, said Saturday she isn't ready to respond to the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's denial. Reade said she will eventually do so, but is "digesting and processing everything he said." Biden said the allegations are "unequivocally" false. Reade also said that while she did file a complaint about Biden following the incident, she is "not sure" about the explicit words she used on the form. Earlier, she said she did not mention the alleged assault.

5

Trump says he's 'glad' Kim is back

President Trump on Saturday tweeted that he is "glad" to see North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "is back, and well" after a three week absence from public. During that span, rumors swirled that Kim was either gravely ill or dead, but North Korean state media showed he re-emerged Saturday for a tour of a newly-completed fertilizer plant. United States intelligence reportedly believes the footage of Kim at the plant is legitimate, and South Korea reportedly believes Kim never underwent surgery, or even a simple medical treatment, suggesting his health was never in jeopardy. After a rocky start to their relationship, Trump and Kim have shown they get along, meeting face to face on multiple occasions and exchanging friendly letters despite heightened tensions between the two countries due to Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.

6

Research suggests official coronavirus death toll in U.S. is far lower than reality

An analysis of federal data conducted by a research team led by the Yale School of Public Health found the United States recorded an estimated 37,100 excess deaths during the coronavirus pandemic throughout March and the first two weeks of April. That's nearly 13,500 more than are attributed to COVID-19 during that same period, The Washington Post reports. The country passed 64,000 coronavirus deaths Friday, but Dan Weinberger, a Yale professor of epidemiology who led the analysis, said his team's estimates indicate the true toll could be "in the range of one and a half times higher." The analysis is based on death certificates compiled by states and sent to the National Center for Health Statistics, which often takes weeks to count a death.

7

Maryland cancels $12.5 million mask order after waiting more than 30 days

State officials said Maryland canceled a $12.5 million order of 1.5 million N95 masks and ventilators from Blue Flame Medical LLC, a company launched weeks ago by former Republican Party fundraiser Mike Gula, to help combat the coronavirus pandemic. The state waited more than 30 days for the shipment to arrive before taking action. Gula reportedly sent a letter to Maryland officials claiming the masks were seized by Chinese government officials. He apparently plans to deliver the order shortly after switching to a new supplier. Maryland, however, has referred the matter to the state's attorney general.

8

Berkshire Hathaway reports record net loss of $49.75 billion in the first quarter

Berkshire Hathaway reporting a record net loss of $49.75 billion in the first quarter. The losses stem from investments in common stocks, including four major airlines — American, Delta, Southwest, and United — which have plummeted due to steep declines in travel during the pandemic. Berkshire went on to sell its shares in all four companies. CEO Warren Buffett considers the company's operating profit, which actually rose during the quarter, to be a better performance measure, however. He also said he is optimistic the U.S. economy will bounce back in the aftermath of the pandemic, but added that while "you can bet on America" investors should "be careful on how you bet."

9

Coronavirus leads to violent threats in Oklahoma, altercation at Massachusetts ICE detention center

Stillwater, Oklahoma, has had to amend an emergency proclamation requiring face coverings for entry into stores and restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic. Just hours after the order went into effect last week, store employees reported receiving verbal abuse and being threatened with physical violence in their attempts to enforce the rule, while Stillwater City Manager Norman McNickle said there has been one threat of violence using a firearm. The city subsequently pulled back the emergency order, but is still encouraging people to wear coverings. Meanwhile, at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Massachusetts, federal immigration detainees and officers were involved in an altercation after 10 detainees reportedly refused to undergo COVID-19 testing. The incident ended with three detainees being sent to a hospital and $25,000 in damage to the center.

10

Invasive Asian giant hornet threatens U.S. bee population

Researchers in Washington state are determined to track down colonies of invasive Asian giant hornets, which are believed to have arrived in the United States from across the Pacific Ocean for the first time. The Asian giant hornet, which is about the size of a human thumb, is the largest hornet in the world and repeated stings can prove fatal for humans, although the species most at risk from its presence is the European honeybee, which has no natural defenses against the larger insect. Scientists believe there is still time to prevent a full-force invasion since the new population is likely small, but quick action is necessary to protect the country's bee population from devastation.

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