March 25, 2020

If executive orders don't work, how about a little friendly competition between states to see who's the best at social distancing?

Unacast, a technology company, analyzed GPS location data from millions of smartphones across the country to track average distances before and after the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States and subsequently doled out grades to each state and county based on how big the decline has been, The Star Tribune reports.

The good news is that while some states are doing better than others, the majority appear to be doing their part. Several states received an A grade after showing greater than 40 percent declines in average distance traveled by and very few achieved lower than a B. The states that have stood out, in addition to Washington, D.C., which leads the pack with a 60 percent decrease, are Alaska, Nevada, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. New York, the state dealing with the worst of the crisis right now, also received an A.

Not every state earned strong marks, though. Wyoming was hit with a failing grade, while Montana and Idaho received Ds. Of course, those states are more sparsely populated so traveling greater distances is required more often. Read more at The Star Tribune and see more of Unacast's data here. Tim O'Donnell

9:27 a.m.

Moderna won't be able to seek emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate earlier than late November, and the vaccine would likely not be available to the general public prior to March, its CEO says.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told the Financial Times on Wednesday that the company wouldn't have enough data to seek emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its coronavirus vaccine candidate before Nov. 25 at the earliest. He also told the Financial Times that the company wouldn't be able to file for approval to get the vaccine to the entire population until late January at the earliest, meaning that "late [first quarter], early [second quarter]" of 2021 is a "reasonable timeline" for approval.

This, CBS News writes, was both a "setback for Moderna" as well as a "blow to claims by" President Trump that a coronavirus vaccine could be ready prior to Election Day. Trump has repeatedly touted such a possibility, and he contradicted experts in his administration during the first 2020 presidential debate on Tuesday while claiming that "we're weeks away from a vaccine."

But Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Congress last month that in terms of when a vaccine might be "generally available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage" of it to "get back to our regular life, I think we're probably looking at ... late second quarter, third quarter 2021."

Given the Moderna CEO's comments, the Financial Times writes that the "most realistic hope of a pre-election vaccine" would be from Pfizer, as that company's CEO says it should know whether its vaccine works by the end of October. But The New York Times writes that "the idea that it will be ready in October is far-fetched." Brendan Morrow

8:15 a.m.

Internal talking points from the Department of Homeland Security directed federal law enforcement officers to speak sympathetically about Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old Trump supporter facing intentional homicide charges for the shooting deaths of two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during a chaotic night on Aug. 25, NBC News reports. Rittenhouse brought an AR-15-style rifle to Kenosha from his home in Illinois to guard private businesses alongside armed militia groups. According to police and video footage, he killed one protester, then shot two more after he tripped while trying to flee the scene.

The talking points obtained by NBC News urge federal officials to tell the media that Rittenhouse "took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small business owners," and that "Kyle was seen being chased and attacked by rioters before allegedly shooting three of them, killing two." Also, "subsequent video has emerged reportedly showing that there were 'multiple gunmen' involved, which would lend more credence to the self-defense claims," the documents claim.

It isn't clear if the talking points originated in the department of in the White House, where President Trump and his press secretary have defended Rittenhouse. Three former Homeland Security officials told NBC News law enforcement isn't typically instructed to discuss particular groups or people before an investigation is finished. "It is as unprecedented as it is wrong," said one, Peter Boogaard.

The talking points also advise telling reporters that Patriot Prayer, a right-wing group in Oregon that clashes with anti-racism protesters, is not racist. One protester, Michael Reinoehl, apparently shot dead a Patriot Prayer member in Portland, before Washington state law enforcement, working for the U.S. Marshals, fatally shot him outside an apartment. Before being killed, Reinoehl said he was acting in self defense, and a witness said the officers did not identify themselves before killing Reinoehl and disputed police assertions that he was armed and fired at police. Trump said at Tuesday's debate that the Marshals "took care of business"; earlier, he called Reinoehl's killing "retribution." Peter Weber

7:45 a.m.

Chrissy Teigen and John Legend have tragically lost their child due to pregnancy complications.

Teigen and Legend shared the heartbreaking news in a statement on Teigen's Instagram and Twitter pages after she was recently hospitalized due to bleeding during her pregnancy, per CNN.

"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before," the statement said. "We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough."

The couple went on to say that they had picked out the name Jack for their third child, writing, "Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

Teigen had recently shared that she had been hospitalized on Sunday after bleeding for around a month and after having been on "serious bed rest" for several weeks while about halfway through her pregnancy. She and Legend on Thursday said they are "so grateful for the life we have" with their two children, Luna and Miles, and thanked those who have sent their thoughts and prayers.

"On this darkest of days, we will grieve, we will cry our eyes out," the statement said. "But we will hug and love each other harder and get through it." Brendan Morrow

6:12 a.m.

The executive branch of the European Union informed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday that it's taking legal action over legislation that would breach the legally binding EU-U.K. divorce deal passed last year and also, by the Johnson government's own admission, violate international law. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the legal action, saying Britain's Internal Market Bill "will be in full contradiction to the protocol of Ireland-Northern Ireland" agreed to in the Brexit accord. London has until Oct. 31 to respond.

The EU had set a Wednesday deadline for Britain to withdraw the bill, which gives London the power to ignore the Brexit deal's agreement on the 300-mile-long border between Ireland — which is part of the EU — and Northern Ireland, part of the U.K. The EU and U.S. lawmakers are concerned that Britain may reimpose a hard border between the two nations, reigniting the long conflict pacified by the 1998 Good Friday accord. Johnson's government insists it respects the Good Friday accord and Brexit agreement but wants a "safety net."

The lower chamber of Parliament, the House of Commons, passed the Internal Market Bill on Tuesday night, 340-256, over strenuous objections from opposition lawmakers and some members of the ruling Conservative Party. It is expected to face a tougher fight in the House of Lords, where the violations of international law are being taken more seriously.

This further breakdown in EU-U.K. ties will also complete ongoing trade negations. The talks are supposed to conclude Friday, but they are expected to continue for at least two more weeks. If no agreement is reached, Britain leaves the EU on Dec. 31 with no trade arrangement. Peter Weber

5:24 a.m.

"The heat's on Donald Trump" after last night's "We Miss America pageant" in Cleveland, Jimmy Kimmel said on Wednesday's Kimmel Live. "There were quite a few TV news people who were like, 'I've never seen anything like this,'" he shrugged, but "I've been seeing this almost every day for about four years now."

"Maybe the most egregious lie Trump told is when he said Joe Biden played more golf than he does — Phil Mickelson doesn't play more golf than he does," Kimmel said. "Trump attacked Biden's family" and "refused to commit to accepting the results of the election," but his lowest moment was "when specifically asked to condemn white supremacy, he wouldn't."

"The only thing he avoids more than condemning white supremacists is paying taxes," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "If you see someone making the same 'mistake' over and over again, at some point you have to accept that it's not a mistake, it's their belief."

"Telling white supremacists to 'stand down' and telling them to 'stand by' are not the same thing," Noah said. "The Proud Boys liked Donald Trump's answer so much that they're even adopting it as their new slogan. And that might actually piss off Trump, because the one thing he definitely believes in is getting royalties." Also, "I'd be careful if I were the Proud Boys," he added, "because if there's one thing we know about Donald Trump, it's that once he invests in you, you have about five years until you go bankrupt."

Yes, "the president's choice of words was so inspiring to these racist numbskulls that today the Proud Boys started selling merch with their new catch phrase," Stephen Colbert said at The Late Show. But evidently, "siding with a violent hate group doesn't poll well with suburban women," so Trump claimed he doesn't know the Proud Boys.

"'Stand back and stand by' is a horrifying thing to say to a group of white supremacists, Samantha Bee joked on Full Frontal, "even more horrifying than when Trump yells it out to the Secret Service as he's waging war on the Air Force One bathroom."

Trump telling white supremacists to "stand by" is just part of his effort "to undermine the election and threaten violence if he loses," Seth Meyers said at Late Night. "He doesn't want to win the election, he wants to destroy the election — just like he destroyed the debate." Watch below. Peter Weber

2:35 a.m.

A study of 85,000 people with COVID-19 in two southern Indian states and 575,000 people they came in contact with found that children 17 and under contract and transmit the new coronavirus at rates similar to the rest of the population. Children age 5 to 17 passed the virus on to 18 percent of close contacts their same age, a team of U.S. and Indian researchers reported Wednesday in the journal Science.

These findings are particularly important given "previous reports suggesting a minor role of children in the pandemic," Antonio Salas, a Spanish researcher who was not involved in the Indian study, told the Los Angeles Times. "National policies on how to proceed with children in schools and other social activities could change dramatically if the scientific evidence underpins the idea that children can infect as efficiently as adults, and even more, they could also behave as super-spreaders."

The two Indian states studied, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, have robust contract tracing and other public health programs. The other major finding from the study involved super-spreaders. While 71 percent of people infected with COVID-19 did not appear to pass the virus on to anybody else, just 8 percent of infected people accounted for 60 percent of the new infections, said lead author Ramanan Laxminarayan of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics, and Policy in New Delhi.

"Super-spreading events are the rule rather than the exception," Laxminarayan said. "It has lots of implications for modeling COVID, for how to keep places safe."

While children 17 and under were found to be more efficient disease transmitters than previously understood, they had the lowest death rate of any age cohort. Overall, deaths increased with age up to 65, then appeared to drop off. New York Times science reporter Apoorva Mandavilli said that might be because people who make it past India's life expectancy of 69 years told tend to be wealthy, with good heath care. Peter Weber

1:49 a.m.

Over the last several months, Adam Labadie has spent 15 hours a day on his computer and in his garage, creating an invention that will help the environment while keeping people healthy.

Labadie, a father of two from Tampa, was laid off at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. While at the grocery store, he saw a trash can overflowing with wipes used to sanitize shopping carts, and he recalled seeing the same wipes in the ocean while he went snorkeling. "I wanted to find another solution," Labadie told WFTS. He decided to create a sanitation device that would eliminate the need for wipes, and the Arch Cart Sanitizer was born.

Bacteria can flourish on the handles of shopping carts, and the Arch Cart Sanitizer uses an organic, FDA- and EPA-approved solution that kills COVID-19, Labadie said. He is now working on getting his invention out to national supermarket chains for demos, and his hope is that it will be in use at stores by November or December. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads