April 29, 2020

Researchers are still learning a lot about the COVID-19 coronavirus: what it does to the body, what other animals it infects — dogs, for example — how to treat the disease, and, of course, how contagious and lethal the new virus is for humans. Antibody tests, designed to determine how many people have been infected with the coronavirus, suggest the coronavirus is less fatal for the average individual, and far more contagious, than originally believed.

Some people, largely conservative opinion journalists, cite the serology data to argue the coronavirus outbreak is no more deadly than the seasonal flu and the U.S. has overreacted. Infectious disease experts come to the opposite conclusion. "I think it is the worst pandemic since 1918," Cecile Viboud, an epidemiologist at the National Institutes of Health's Fogarty International Center, tells The Washington Post.

There are two fatality rates: the case fatality rate, measuring symptomatic COVID-19 patients who die, and the infection fatality rate, which covers everyone infected with the coronavirus. The case fatality rates "have been about 6 percent globally as well as in the United States," the Post reports, while the infection fatality rate is now believed — based on antibody tests — to be anywhere from 0.5 percent to 0.8 percent. You may have read that the seasonal flu has a fatality rate of 0.1 percent, but that's the case fatality rate. So even if the coronavirus infection fatality rate is 0.2 percent, as a controversial study of California's Santa Clara County suggested, "it would still be deadlier than the flu," the Post notes.

As of Wednesday morning, the U.S. has reported more than a million COVID-19 infections and 58,355 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins. But that's almost certainly undercounting both numbers. New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data analyzed by The New York Times show that total deaths in seven states were 50 percent higher than usual from March 8 to April 11.

The CDC will eventually count and sort these thousands of "excess deaths," the Times reports, but "right now, they are the most useful tool, several epidemiologists said, for measuring the impact of coronavirus in the United States" and around the world — and the deaths are clearly "far more than during a typical bad flu season." Peter Weber

12:05 p.m.

Just one day after a major sponsor of the Washington Redskins issued a rebuke of the football team's controversial name, the franchise announced it will "review" the moniker. FedEx, "a Fortune 100 company that for more than two decades has tied its brand to that of the team," as The Washington Post reports, made the request on Thursday after investors worth more than $620 billion in assets urged the company to cut ties with the team unless the name was changed. Nike, another sponsor, removed Redskins merchandise from its online store Thursday.

The move is significant because it suggests the battle over sports team names "has shifted from moral appeals to business and political tactics," the Post says, especially as the U.S. grapples with its long history of racial inequality in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

FedEx owns the naming rights to the team's stadium in Maryland, so its opinion could matter quite a lot. Team owner Daniel Snyder has long been pressured to change the team's name, but he's previously claimed the name honors Native Americans. This is the first time he's relented. "This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League, and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field," Snyder said in a statement.

Read more at The Washington Post. Jessica Hullinger

11:21 a.m.

As coronavirus cases continue to surge in the U.S., overwhelming hospitals and bringing state-wide reopening plans to a halt, many might be wondering where the next hotspots will be. Unfortunately, that's somewhat hard to predict, as "the infection curve rose in 40 of the 50 states heading into the July Fourth holiday weekend," The Associated Press reports. But we can make some educated guesses.

The states with the most severe outbreaks at present are Arizona, Florida, Texas, and California, which "reported a combined 25,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases Thursday," AP says. But Georgia "is among the most worrying states right now," says Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic. Over the last week, the Peach State reported more than 14,800 new cases, and this can't be chalked up to more testing: "At the beginning of June, about one in 14 tests came back positive. Last week, about one in nine tests did; today, one in seven tests did," Meyer says.

Another state to watch is Ohio, "which saw new cases rise much faster than tests this week," Meyer reports. The percentage of positive tests has also doubled in Kansas, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, and South Carolina. "In Nevada, it has tripled. In Idaho, it is five times higher," according to AP.

Meanwhile, the Northeast, which was the early epicenter for the virus, has seen new infections drop significantly. Of the states seeing a downward trend in infections, only two — Nebraska and South Dakota — are outside the Northeast. "What seems to unite many of the most affected states is that they reopened indoor dining, bars, and gyms," Meyer says. "What will distinguish them is how they react now." Jessica Hullinger

10:27 a.m.

Tucker Carlson for president? It's not inconceivable.

According to Politico, a number of Republican Party insiders are hoping the Fox News host will "parlay his TV perch into a run for president in 2024," believing he could be the next-generation leader of Trumpism. It's undeniable that Carlson has a massive platform from which he could make his pitch. As Politico reports, Tucker Carlson Tonight is the most watched cable news program in history, and Luke Thompson, a Republican strategist who worked for Jeb Bush's super PAC in 2016, told Politico this would make him a "formidable" candidate. But if he were to become the nominee, a "debate over the future of the party" would erupt, Politico says, about "whether Trump was an aberration or a party-realigning disrupter — a fight that will be all the fiercer if Trump loses in November."

Carlson's high ratings come alongside an advertiser exodus following his on-air claim that the Black Lives Matter movement "is definitely not about Black lives. Remember that when they come for you, and at this rate, they will." His ability to repeatedly withstand a barrage of backlash seems to be one of his selling points for the Republican base. "What he's been saying speaks for a lot of people, and it's basically not expressed or serviced by most Republican politicians," Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review, told Politico. "There's a lot to be said for being fearless, and he is, while Republican politicians, as a breed, are not."

The question, though, is: Would Carlson run? According to one former top political aide to Trump, Carlson is "disgusted" with politicians, so he probably won't be interested in becoming one. He also has zero political experience under his belt, but as Lowry notes: "Political experience matters less than it once did."

Read more at Politico. Jessica Hullinger

8:13 a.m.

As President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence continue to host events in areas hard-hit by the coronavirus crisis, the Secret Service agents assigned to look after them are starting to fear for their own health and safety, The Washington Post reports.

"The heightened risk of agents getting sick" while preparing for rallies in states like Arizona and Oklahoma "has begun to frazzle agents and their families," the Post reports, citing people close to agents. Their worries aren't unfounded: The Post says Pence was forced to duck out of a "Faith in America" campaign rally scheduled for Tuesday in Arizona after some of his Secret Service agents displayed coronavirus symptoms and at least one tested positive. Pence postponed his visit until Wednesday so that new, healthy agents could be brought in.

This is the second time recently that Secret Service agents have contracted the virus while prepping for an event for the administration. Two agents tested positive before Trump's controversial rally in Tulsa on June 20, and at least eight campaign staff members who helped plan the event have also tested positive. Catherine Milhoan, the director of communications for the Secret Service, told The New York Times that "the health and safety of our work force, their families, and that of our protectees remains the agency's highest priority." Jessica Hullinger

7:30 a.m.

President Trump will start the three-day Independence Day weekend at Mount Rushmore, where 7,500 people are expected to attend a fireworks display Friday, The Associated Press reports. South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem (R), a Trump ally, said masks will be optional at the event, and social distancing won't be required. That prompted objections from local officials, including the Republican mayor of nearby Rapid City, Steve Allender.

Leaders of several Native American tribes in the region also warned the event could result in a coronavirus spike among their members. "The president is putting our tribal members at risk to stage a photo op at one of our most sacred sites," said Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

In many states, leaders are encouraging residents to limit their July 4 celebrations to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. Harold Maass

5:50 a.m.

The United States hit another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic Thursday, recording 55,220 new daily cases, according to The Washington Post. Georgia and Florida both set single-day records — Georgia reported 3,472 new daily cases, while Florida recorded a staggering 10,109 cases Thursday, up more than 3,500 from Wednesday's record-breaking total. "It's the 25th consecutive day that Florida has set a record high in its seven-day rolling average," the Post says.

Texas reported nearly 8,000 new cases Thursday, and in Houston, hospitals are being forced to transfer patients to facilities in other parts of the state as intensive care units near capacity due to the surge in COVID-19 patients. "We're running out of ICU beds," Harris Health Systems spokesman Bryan McLeod told ABC News. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) mandated everyone in the state wear masks in public to help slow the spread of the virus.

There have been more than 11 million coronavirus cases worldwide, with 521,000 global deaths. While cases continue to skyrocket in the U.S., there hasn't been a corresponding surge in the death toll. However, a study published Wednesday in JAMA Internal Medicine said the true COVID-19 death toll may be significantly higher than what's being reported. Jessica Hullinger

July 2, 2020

Poll after poll has shown former Vice President Joe Biden with a growing lead over President Trump, and with COVID-19 cases surging again, the president's approval level is sinking as well. It's all leading Trump to claim "the polls are all fake" and, when he does believe them, beg for advice to turn it all around, Vanity Fair reports.

In recent days, Trump has appeared "down in the dumps," Republicans who have spoken with him tell Vanity Fair. "People around him think his heart's not in it," one Republican close to the White House said of his campaign. Trump is reportedly stuck between appealing to his base and suburban voters, leading him to even call Fox News' Tucker Carlson last week and beg "What do I do? What do I do?"

In other instances, Trump has appeared in denial of his sputtering campaign and claimed "the polls are all fake," a Republican in touch with Trump tells Vanity Fair. But at other times he reportedly believes the polls — and blames them on his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. But the reported blame games haven't stopped the bad news from pouring in, namely when it comes to the resumption of campaign rallies where Trump usually thrives. With coronavirus spreading throughout Florida and a mandatory mask policy now in place in Jacksonville, the Trump campaign is reportedly ready to cancel his 15,000-person rally at the Republican National Convention next month "so that Trump doesn’t suffer another Tulsa–like humiliation," Vanity Fair writes.

Read more about Trump's growing campaign woes at Vanity Fair. Kathryn Krawczyk

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