April 2, 2020

The governor of Georgia seems to have been unaware until this week that the novel coronavirus can be spread by people without symptoms, something that is by no means new information.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) in a news conference on Wednesday, in which he announced a stay-at-home order for the state, pointed out that the COVID-19 coronavirus is "transmitting before people see signs" while wrongly suggesting this was not known until very recently.

"We've been telling people from directives from the CDC for weeks now that if you start feeling bad, stay home," Kemp said. "Those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad. Well, we didn't know that until the last 24 hours."

In fact, health officials have been warning about this for quite some time. The Washington Post notes, for example, that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said as far back as Jan. 31 that it was at first "not clear whether an asymptomatic person could transmit it to someone while they were asymptomatic," but "now, we know from a recent report from Germany that that is absolutely the case." Brendan Morrow

8:21 a.m.

The Environmental Protection Agency approved a new chemical Monday for use in repelling mosquitos, ticks, and other disease-bearing insects. The newly approved chemical, nootkatone, is a nontoxic oil found in Alaskan yellow cedars (Cupressus nootkatensis) and grapefruits, and it is so aromatic and safe for humans it is used in foods and perfumes. "If you drink Fresca or Squirt, you've drunk nootkatone," Ben Beard, deputy director of the division of vector-borne diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tells The New York Times.

The CDC discovered that nootkatone repels mosquitos, ticks, bedbugs, and fleas, and might also work against lice, sandflies, and other pests, 25 years ago. In high enough concentrations, the oil can kill bugs resistant to synthetic insecticides like DDT and pyrethroids. And it last as long as the synthetic chemicals, unlike other plant-based oils, like citronella and peppermint oil, whose effects wear off after about an hour, says Iowa State University inset toxicology expert Joel Coats. Still, Coats said, his lab has found nootkatone to be "an impressive repellent but a weak insecticide."

The after Oregon State University and CDC scientists discovered the repellant properties of nootkatone, the CDC licensed its patent to a Swiss company, Evolva, the Times reports. Getting EPA approval to use the oil as an active ingredient in insect repellants or insecticides was too expensive a process until the Zika epidemic hit in 2015 and Congress set aside money for mosquito control. That funding "was the key to moving the boulder up the hill," Beard told the Times. Peter Weber

7:19 a.m.

It is mathematically impossible for Kanye West to win the 2020 presidential election, but he is still running — with help from some Republicans who don't appear to be motivated by hopes for a President Kanye. It isn't clear what West is thinking.

West has told Forbes he's fine if his last-minute campaign siphoned votes off from Democrat Joe Biden and helped his friend President Trump win re-election. "I'm not denying it, I just told you," he told Forbes in July. "To say that the Black vote is Democratic is a form of racism and white supremacy." Last Thursday, he told Fobes he is "walking" for president, and when it was pointed out to him that he can only act as spoiler in 2020, West replied: "I'm not going to argue with you. Jesus is King."

Getting on the ballot in all 50 states takes work and expertise, and West has already missed his chances to appear on the ballot in California, Florida, Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. It's not clear his petition for Wisconsin was submitted on time, but it was dropped off by Lane Ruhland, a lawyer whose clients include the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, and other GOP candidates.

A GOP-linked law firm submitted West's petition in Ohio, and a longtime GOP operative in Colorado, Rachel George, asked at least one Republican strategist last week: "Would you help me get Kanye West on the ballot in Colorado? No, I am not joking, and I realize this is hilarious," according to an email obtained by Vice News.

It isn't clear if West and his unorthodox Birthday Party will actually help Trump or hurt Biden, but "it's possible" he could tip the election, Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of the nonpartisan guide Inside Elections, tells the Los Angeles Times. "We don't know how close the most important states will be. We don't know if he will be on the ballot. And we certainly don't know how many votes he would receive," Gonzales added. "For people to say, 'Oh, Kanye is Black so he'll take Black voters from Biden' is a gross oversimplification of a more complex situation."

Part of the complexity is about West himself. After a bizarre South Carolina rally, West's wife, Kim Kardashian West, pointed to her husband's bipolar disorder and asked for "compassion and empathy." Peter Weber

5:41 a.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that Russia has become the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine, claiming victory in a global race to conquer COVID-19. The vaccine was developed by Moscow's Gamaleya Institute, and Putin said one of his two daughters is among the Russians already inoculated with the vaccine, joining a small group that includes the researchers who developed it and about 50 members of Russia's military.

Medical experts expressed concerns that the Kremlin aggressively and dangerously rushed the vaccine approval process, putting global prestige over public health. Putin said the Gamaleya vaccine had proven effective in two months of early-stage human trials and offered lasting immunity. Russian officials said Phase III trial of the vaccine will be conducted in Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and maybe Brazil as thousands of Russian medical workers, teachers, and other groups are inoculated. The World Health Organization lists the Gamaleya vaccine trial as in Phase I.

Top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci testified earlier this month that countries should only roll out vaccines after extensive testing. "I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing the vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone, because claims of having a vaccine ready to distribute before you do testing, I think, is problematic at best," Fauci told Congress. Peter Weber

4:37 a.m.

Stephen Colbert was back in the Ed Sullivan Theater — well, an office in the theater — for Monday's Late Show. "Now, you might recall that right before I went on break, Congress couldn't agree on ... anything, specifically how much supplemental unemployment pay out-of work Americans should get," he said. So President Trump stepped in with an executive order. Yes, "it's against the law," Colbert said. "But on the bright side, Trump's orders aren't just unconstitutional, they also don't help."

"You've got to give it to Trump, man: He knows that Congress is so gridlocked that they can make even him look good," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "Because, you see, it doesn't matter if his executive orders are illegal or toothless or completely unworkable, he understands that even the appearance of doing something is better than the appearance of going on recess in the middle of a recession."

"So once again, Trump has tried to solve a problem and ended up creating a bigger mess," Noah said. "But if you're wondering whether he thinks he's doing a good job," it appears he thinks he's earned a spot on Mount Rushmore. "And honestly, I agree with him: I think we should put Trump on Mount Rushmore," he added. "But not a carving — I think we would actually put him on Mount Rushmore, no phone, no internet, problem solved."

"Trump's wasting his time at Mount Rushmore," Jimmy Fallon said at The Tonight Show. "If he wants something carved into rock that looks like him, the orange hue of the Grand Canyon is a much better option." Fallon was also unimpressed Trump "signed four executive orders to help the unemployed from his private country club. Even Marie Antoinette was like, 'Come on, man, read the room.'"

Asking to be put on Mount Rushmore is "like going up to a priest after mass and asking him, 'So, what's the process for adding someone to the trinity? What if it was like the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and the Dan?'" Seth Meyer joked at Late Night. "And even if there was a process to get on Mount Rushmore, I'm pretty sure presiding over the preventable deaths of 160,000 Americans and the worst economic crash since the Great Depression would be disqualifying." Watch his critique of Trump's "meaningless and blatantly unconstitutional executive orders" and his impressive Owen Wilson impersonation below. Peter Weber

2:01 a.m.

For the second night in a row, protesters who believe Belarus' presidential election was rigged took to the streets of Minsk, with thousands of people participating in Monday's demonstration.

In response, riot police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades at the crowd, BBC News reports. Officials said one protester was killed when the explosive device they were carrying went off in their hands. This comes as Lithuania's Minister of Foreign Affairs tweeted early Tuesday that opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has fled to Lithuania, where she is now "safe."

On Sunday, the government said President Alexander Lukashenko, an authoritarian leader who has held power since 1994 and is known as "Europe's last dictator," won the presidential election with 80 percent of the vote. No outside observers were allowed to monitor the election, and the internet was down for much of the day, which opposition leaders claim was done on purpose so it was hard to share evidence of election fraud.

In years past, Lukashenko has not had any serious challengers, but this time, there was a popular opposition candidate: Tikhanovskaya, a former teacher. The government says Tikhanovskaya only received 9.9 percent of the vote, but she said on Monday she was the true winner, as the results announced by the Central Election Commission "do not correspond to reality and completely contradict common sense." Catherine Garcia

1:58 a.m.

President Trump oddly but consistently says the 1918-19 flu pandemic began in 1917, but the White House clarified Monday night that Trump just misspoke when he claimed the Spanish Flu pandemic probably ended World War II, which started in 1939 and ended in 1945.

"The closest thing is in 1917, they say, the great pandemic," Trump told reporters Monday evening, talking about the COVID-19 pandemic. "It certainly was a terrible thing where they lost anywhere from 50 to 100 million people, probably ended the Second World War. All the soldiers were sick. That was a terrible situation."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the deployment of U.S. forces to Europe's battlefields in World War I helped spread the Spanish Flu, but Germany's surrender in 1918 followed years of heavy battlefield losses on all sides.

Trump's erroneous comments about world wars and the Spanish Flu's start date came in response to a question about whether he would have called for his predecessor's resignation if more than 160,000 Americans had died of a communicable disease on his watch. Trump, who did call for President Barack Obama to resign after one American doctor was allowed to return to the U.S. after contracting Ebola, said no. Peter Weber

1:13 a.m.

The executive order President Trump signed Sunday to unilaterally extend supplemental unemployment benefits doesn't appropriate any new funds — only Congress can do that — and requires states to cover 25 percent of the costs, a financial hit most cash-strapped states would struggle to absorb, even if they could overcome the technical hurdles of carrying out the scheme. The $44 billion Trump offered comes from FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund.

House Democrats passed a bill in May that would have extended $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits, plus giving aid to state and local governments, but Senate Republicans did not offer their own bill and those jobless benefits lapsed Aug. 1. Democratic leaders and White House negotiators hit a wall in negotiating a new package on Friday, and Trump announced his executive action Saturday, offering $400 a week — $100 of which legally has to come from states under the law he is using to sidestep Congress.

If every state applied to participate in Trump's new, legally questionable unemployment benefit scheme, the FEMA money would dry out in five or six weeks, after states updated their antiquated unemployment systems to meet the requirements of Trump's order, says Andrew Stettner, an unemployment aid expert at the Century Foundation. "No one's getting a payment from this in August. If they're lucky, they'll get it in September."

State officials from both parties said Monday they can't afford to pay the billions required when they are cutting their own workforce. Democratic governors were more vocal about their misgivings, but even Republicans who praised Trump for sidestepping Congress declined to say they would participate in his order. North Carolina officials questioned using FEMA disaster funds at the start of what's forecast to be a busy hurricane season. "States shouldn't be forced to choose which disaster victims to help," Dory MacMillan, press secretary Gov. Roy Cooper (D), told The Associated Press.

"I honestly think this can't possibly be serious," Michele Evermore at the liberal-leaning National Employment Law Project told Politico. "The White House must have released this thinking that this is just a negotiating tactic because it really is an empty promise." Peter Weber

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