April 7, 2020

Celebrities may be calling COVID-19 a "great equalizer," but statistics from across the U.S. show that's far from the truth. Coronavirus case numbers and death tolls have revealed the virus is disproportionately affecting black Americans in many parts of the country — though statistics from some of the hardest hit areas haven't been revealed yet, The New York Times reports.

Black Americans make up just about a third of Louisiana's population. But according to numbers released Monday by the state government, more than 70 percent of those who've died of COVID-19 were black. Chicago is less than a third black, but 72 percent of those who've died of the new coronavirus were black. And while the county around Milwaukee is about 27 percent black, around twice as many black residents tested positive for COVID-19 as white residents.

There's not enough data to fully explain the overwhelmingly disproportionate numbers, experts tell the Times. But the fact that black Americans are less likely than white Americans to be insured, suffer racial bias in medical testing and treatment, and more often have jobs that haven't let them stay home during the pandemic all certainly contribute.

California, New Jersey, New York and Washington are among the states COVID-19 has hit the hardest, but they haven't yet released statewide information about the race of patients, the Times notes. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have demanded the federal government track and release this data. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:40 a.m.

President Trump's campaign against mail-in voting relies on a fundamental misunderstanding of what the process even is.

Even amid a global pandemic that makes it dangerous to gather in public and definitely dangerous to vote in person, Trump has railed against the safer option of mass mail-in voting. He repeated his false claims that mail-in voting is wracked with fraud in a Friday tweet, but then decided "absentee ballots are fine because you have to go through a precise process to get your voting privilege." There's one big problem with that: Absentee and mail-in ballots are the same thing.

Despite what Trump says, getting a ballot by mail — an absentee ballot, one might say — in most states requires filing an application complete with one's signature. Five states have all-mail elections and haven't faced any major issues or fraud throughout the years.

Trump has made this false inequivalence between absentee and mail-in voting many times in the past. He's often used it to justify why he has voted by mail many times in the past even when there was no global health threat keeping him from going to the polls. Administration officials have also tried to claim mail-in voting is problematic despite using the process several times themselves. Kathryn Krawczyk

8:13 a.m.

The CEO of Pfizer is expressing confidence in the company's coronavirus vaccine candidate, which he says could potentially receive approval from the FDA this October.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla spoke with Time this week after the pharmaceutical company recently released the first clinical data on its COVID-19 candidate, which showed it generated neutralizing antibodies at levels 1.8 to 2.8-times the levels found in patients who recovered from COVID-19. There were, however, some side effects including fevers.

"What we learned is that this vaccine can neutralize the virus," Bourla told Time. "...For me, it was the moment when I saw the data, plus many other data that we haven't published yet, [that] made me say that until now I was thinking if we have a vaccine. Now I'm discussing when we're going to have a vaccine."

Bourla added that "we have a lot of indications that make me feel that really it should make it," noting that it won't be until "we have the final study" that it's clear whether the vaccine candidate works but saying that this answer should come around September.

"So for a potential approval in October, if we are lucky," he said. "It's feasible."

If that happens, Bourla says "we will have already manufactured doses that will be readily available" as soon as the FDA approval comes. In announcing its recent data, Pfizer said it's looking to "manufacture up to 100 million doses by the end of 2020 and potentially more than 1.2 billion doses by the end of 2021." Brendan Morrow

8:12 a.m.

Two-thirds of Americans now disapprove of President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and race relations, two of the biggest issues roiling the U.S. in the lead-up to November's election, ABC News and Ipsos find in a national poll released Friday morning. Roughly mirroring the U.S. COVID-19 case count graph, Trump's disapproval numbers on his coronavirus response held relatively steady from April until June, then rose sharply through July.

Overall, 67 percent of Americans say they disapprove of Trump's coronavirus response while 33 percent approve. Trump saw some slippage among Republicans — 78 percent approve of his response, down from 90 percent in June — but his numbers among independents tanked. In mid-June, 40 percent of independents approved of Trump's COVID-19 oversight and 59 disapproved; now, only 26 percent approve and 73 percent disapprove. Men (66 percent) and women (67 percent) equally disapprove of the president's response, and even white Americans without a college degree narrowly disapprove, 50 percent to 49 percent approving.

The percentage of American who said the economy was being pushed to open too quickly rose 3 percentage points, to 59 percent, ABC News/Ipsos found, versus 15 percent who said it is opening too slowly. On Trump's handling of race relations, 59 percent of white Americans, 92 percent of Black Americans, and 83 percent of Latinos disapprove.

The ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted July 8-9 among 711 U.S. adults in English and Spanish. The poll's margin of sampling error is ±4.1 percentage points. Peter Weber

7:41 a.m.

Starbucks announced Thursday that it would require customers in its company-operated coffee cafés in the United States to wear masks starting July 15, Yahoo Finance reports. The policy is intended to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection as COVID-19 cases spike in the U.S. The company said it was "prioritizing the health and well-being of partners (employees) and customers" despite resistance to wearing masks by many Americans.

In some states and cities, authorities have made masks mandatory in places where social distancing is impossible, such as enclosed restaurants and stores. "It is our responsibility to protect our partners and comply with local public health mandates," the company said. "As such, our partners have the right and responsibility to refuse service to customers who are not wearing facial coverings." Harold Maass

7:33 a.m.

Authorities across the United States reported another day of record new coronavirus infections on Thursday, marking the sixth new high in 10 days, The New York Times reports. The surge of about 60,000 new cases was driven by spiking infections across the South and the West, mostly in states that eased lockdowns and reopened their economies early after the first spike in the spring.

At least six states — Alabama, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, and Texas — reported single-day infection records. At least two states saw their biggest death toll increases yet, with Florida reporting 120 deaths and Tennessee 22. Hospitalizations rose sharply in some areas, too, forcing many hospitals across the South and West to open up beds by canceling elective surgeries and discharging patients early. Harold Maass

7:08 a.m.

A rural mail carrier in West Virginia pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of attempted election fraud and another count of "injury to the mail," the U.S. Attorney's Office for Northern West Virginia announced. The contract mail man, Thomas Cooper, used black ink to alter eight primary ballot requests, marking five of them from "Democrat" to "Republican" and changing three in other ways, prosecutors said.

The Pendleton County clerk spotted the obvious alterations and alerted state officials, sparking an investigation involving the state attorney general's office, U.S. postal inspectors, and federal prosecutors. West Virginia mailed all registered voters absentee ballot requests to encourage mail-in voting in the state's June 9 primary. If the tampered ballot requests had not been caught, five people requesting to vote in the Democratic primary would have received Republican primary ballots.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted several states to move to mail-in voting out of safety concerns. Mail-in vote fraud does happen but it's very rare, and this case was pretty inconsequential. One of the investigators interviewing Cooper, 47, asked if he was "just being silly" and he replied yes, he did it "as a joke." He will be sentenced at a later date. Peter Weber

5:57 a.m.

The people in charge of putting together President Trump's Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida, next month have several large, intertwined challenges: time, the state's raging COVID-19 outbreak, and money. The convention planners are "under pressure to raise tens of millions of dollars in the next five weeks to help finance the three-day convention," and as they struggle against this "almost impossibly rushed time frame," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is actively "hindering those efforts," The New York Times reports.

DeSantis "has directed his top fund-raiser, Heather Barker, to tell donors not to give to the convention because of a personal dispute between the governor and Susie Wiles, his former campaign manager who is serving as an informal adviser to the convention planners," the Times reports, citing multiple people familiar with his actions. DeSantis fell out with Wiles, a longtime, well-connected Florida GOP operative who lives in Jacksonville, last fall over suspicious she leaked an embarrassing personal memo suggesting DeSantis charge lobbyists for access.

Trump's campaign credits Wiles with helping it win Florida in 2016, when she served as its Florida political director, and when DeSantis told Trump over the phone that Wiles was overrated as an operative, "Trump did not respond, and changed the subject," the Times reports. DeSantis lobbied Trump to move the convention to Florida after North Carolina required masks, social distancing, and other measures from turning the RNC into another super-spreader event.

Most of the contributions for the Jacksonville convention are coming from national donors, so convention fund-raisers say DeSantis' alleged sabotage is having little effect, the Times reports. But still, "the governor's threat to hold up resources in his own state was seen by Republican officials as a stunning act of political pettiness." Read more at The New York Times. Peter Weber

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