May 19, 2020

The Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released findings late Monday after studying 285 COVID-19 survivors who tested positive for the coronavirus again after presumably recovering the illness. The virus samples collected from the patients couldn't be grown in culture, suggesting that the patients had indeed recovered and were actually shedding non-infectious or dead virus particles, rather than suffering from a lingering infection, Bloomberg reports.

While there will likely be more work done in this area, it's encouraging news, and South Korean health authorities — who have received praise for setting a global standard during the pandemic — will no longer consider people infectious after they recover from their illness and won't require additional tests after patients are discharged from their isolation period. That means those patients won't have to test negative before returning to work or school.

Another positive sign from the findings is that almost all of the cases for which blood cases were taken had antibodies against the virus, which lends credence to the theory that people who were previously infected have built up some form of protection. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

9:47 a.m.

President Trump has apparently not been briefed by the country's top infectious disease expert for months, even amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke to the Financial Times in an interview published Friday, in which he revealed that it's been more than a month since he actually saw the president in person at the White House; that last happened on June 2, he said. Additionally, Fauci said that it's been at least two months since he briefed Trump, though he's "sure" his messages are being relayed to the president. If that's the case, "Trump is evidently not listening," the Financial Times writes.

After all, Fauci in the interview had to offer a fact-check of Trump's recent false claim that 99 percent of COVID-19 cases are harmless.

"I'm trying to figure out where the president got that number," Fauci said. "What I think happened is that someone told him that the general mortality is about 1 per cent. And he interpreted, therefore, that 99 per cent is not a problem, when that’s obviously not the case."

And Fauci noted that despite Trump's assertion, since COVID-19 has such a "broad range of manifestations," "even if it doesn’t kill you, even if it doesn’t put you in the hospital, it can make you seriously ill."

It's not just Trump who's been seeing less of Fauci lately, as he's also been making fewer TV appearances in recent weeks as CNN reports the White House has blocked some interview requests with him. Fauci himself seems to have a theory as to why.

"I have a reputation, as you probably have figured out, of speaking the truth at all times and not sugar-coating things," Fauci told the Financial Times. "And that may be one of the reasons why I haven’t been on television very much lately." Brendan Morrow

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

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