April 22, 2020

The first known instances of pets contracting the COVID-19 coronavirus in the United States have been confirmed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratories said on Wednesday that two pet cats in separate areas of New York tested positive for the coronavirus, Axios reports. In the case of the first cat, no one in the household had tested positive for COVID-19, although in the second case, the owner did test positive. Both cats are expected to recover after having mild respiratory illnesses, a statement said.

The USDA said "these are the first pets in the United States to test positive" for the coronavirus. In the case of the first pet, the "virus may have been transmitted to this cat by mildly ill or asymptomatic household members or through contact with an infected person outside its home," officials said.

The Associated Press notes this "adds to a small number of confirmed cases of the virus in animals worldwide" after seven tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo previously tested positive. The CDC's Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, though, noted to the AP that "there's no evidence that pets are playing a role in spreading this disease to people" and that "we don't want people to panic" or "be afraid of pets." Those who become sick with COVID-19 are, however, recommended to limit contact with pets, and the CDC suggests keeping cats indoors. Brendan Morrow

10:24 p.m.

The organizer of a swingers convention that is linked to at least 41 cases of coronavirus says if he could "go back in time, I would not produce this event again."

The "Naughty in N'awlins" convention was held in mid-November. Roughly 250 people attended the event, down from about 2,000 people in 2019, NOLA.com reports. Organizer Bob Hannaford said people had to test for COVID-19 before arriving, and half of them reported having antibodies; attendees were then given color-coded wristbands depending on their status.

Hannaford said participants were told to social distance and keep contact diaries, and several have shared with him that they became complacent on the last day of the event and that's "probably why they ended up positive."

One of the participants is now hospitalized with the virus and in serious condition, and Hannaford said that he wouldn't have organized the event "if I knew then what I know now. It weights on me and it will continue to weigh on me until everyone is 100 percent better." The pandemic has been raging in the United States since March, and cases were on the rise in Louisiana when the convention was held. Catherine Garcia

9:33 p.m.

Ivanka Trump, President Trump's eldest daughter and one of his senior advisers, was deposed on Tuesday as part of a civil lawsuit alleging the misuse of inaugural funds, court documents show.

The District of Columbia attorney general's office sued the Trump Organization and Presidential Inaugural Committee in January, claiming that they misused more than $1 million by "grossly overpaying" for event space in the Trump International Hotel in Washington. The suit alleges that in one case, a nonprofit corporation called the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee, in coordination with the Trump family, paid more than $300,000 to hold a private reception at the hotel for Ivanka Trump and her brothers, Donald Jr. and Eric, on Jan. 20, 2017.

"District law requires nonprofits to use their funds for their stated public purpose, not to benefit private individuals or companies," District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine said earlier this year.

Court filings show that Tom Barrack, the chairman of Trump's inaugural committee, was deposed on Nov. 17. The lawsuit alleges that during inaugural planning, Barrack "personally managed" discussions with the hotel about the event spaces used. Catherine Garcia

8:49 p.m.

Former President Barack Obama is willing to set an example when it comes to getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

During an interview with SiriusXM Urban View host Joe Madison set to air on Thursday, Obama said if Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, says a vaccine is safe and can "immunize you from getting Covid, absolutely, I'm going to take it." Obama said he trusts Fauci "completely," and he may get the vaccine "on TV or [have] it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science, and what I don't trust is getting Covid."

Obama told Madison he understands, due to historical events like the Tuskegee Study, "why the African American community would have some skepticism. But the fact of the matter is, vaccines are why we don't have polio anymore, the reason why we don't have a whole bunch of kids dying from measles and smallpox and diseases that used to decimate entire populations and communities." Catherine Garcia

7:49 p.m.

On Wednesday, the United States broke two coronavirus records: for the first time, more than 200,000 new cases were reported in a day and more than 100,000 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized across the country.

The number of hospitalized patients is nearly double from the spring, during the pandemic's deadly first wave of infections. Philip Landrigan, the director of a global public health program at Boston College, told The New York Times that "any thinking person has to be worried. That we have so many hospitalizations speaks to the fact that we have done a very poor job of controlling this pandemic. It is spreading very rapidly, and in many places, it is basically spreading out of control."

At least 272,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus, with more than 2,700 deaths reported on Wednesday. The single-day fatality record is 2,967, set in mid-April.

On Wednesday morning, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield warned that the next three months "are going to be rough times. I actually believe they're going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation, largely because of the stress that it's going to put on our health care system."

He estimated by February, the United States could be "close to 450,000" COVID-19 deaths, but he wants Americans to remember that "we're not defenseless," and everyone must do their part by wearing masks and practicing social distancing, measures that are proven to work. Catherine Garcia

6:59 p.m.

Following the assassination last week of its top nuclear scientist, Iran on Wednesday imposed a law ordering the country's Atomic Energy Agency to immediately increase its enrichment of uranium.

Under the measure, the uranium will be enriched to 20 percent purity, a level that would give Iran the chance to convert its entire stockpile to bomb-grade levels within six months, The New York Times reports. Further, the law calls for the expulsion of international nuclear inspectors if U.S. oil and banking sanctions against Iran are not lifted by early February.

The law appears to be set up in a way to get President-elect Joe Biden to re-enter the nuclear deal with Iran that President Trump abandoned, the Times notes. It was ratified on Wednesday by Iran's Guardian Council, but President Hassan Rouhani said the government "does not agree with this legislation and considers it damaging for diplomacy."

Iran's top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was killed on Friday, and while several global intelligence officials have pinned his assassination on Israel, the Israeli government has not taken responsibility. Iran has vowed to retaliate. Catherine Garcia

6:05 p.m.

Several Republican lawmakers are showing enthusiasm for a potential 2024 run from President Trump, Politico reports.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) went so far as to say he would support Trump's candidacy if he chooses to run, while Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said he "should run and would have the support" of the Republican Party.

Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.), both of whom have had their names floated as potential presidential candidates, also indicated to Politico that they'd back Trump's effort to return to the White House, as did Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who said the U.S. "would benefit tremendously" from another Trump term. Blackburn, though, is still holding out hope Trump will win his doomed battle to overturn the 2020 results.

Not everyone was overtly enthusiastic, however, including some of Trump's notable allies like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who declined to comment. Cotton is another senator many speculate could launch his own bid, so he may be keeping things close to the vest. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), meanwhile, said he doesn't talk about hypotheticals, a point echoed by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) may have been the hardest to read. He repeated his opinion that Trump would be the clear favorite if he ran, but didn't hint one way or another how he'd feel about it. "I know it's an interesting story, but I have no idea," he told Politico. Tim O'Donnell

5:18 p.m.

President Trump has combined dozens of his favorite conspiracy theories about the 2020 election into one incredibly debunked Facebook video.

In a 45-minute video posted Wednesday, Trump repeated debunked lie after lie about the 2020 election, including claims that Dominion voting machines were rigged; Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday that the Department of Homeland Security had looked into claims about the machines changing ballots and found no evidence. Trump also falsely suggested mail-in ballots were somehow rigged against him, despite it being known before the election that mail-in ballots would tend to go for President-elect Joe Biden, and that there have been no instances of widespread fraud found since.

Trump made several more false claims throughout the video, but because it was pre-recorded, there was no chance for the press to question him.

One question that might be asked is why Trump isn't heading to court with these seemingly serious claims, as the team leading his legal challenges in several states has yet to bring forward compelling evidence. Republican pollster and consultant Frank Luntz had an answer: It's because they don't have any "substance." Kathryn Krawczyk

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