June 23, 2020

For the first time since 1960, China could play a leading role in the 2020 presidential election, Ben Jacobs writes for New York magazine. Polls show Americans have increasingly viewed Beijing's government in an unfavorable light, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. But there's a sense among Democrats that their candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, should leave the more bellicose rhetoric to President Trump.

Matt Duss, a senior foreign policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), told New York that trying to "out nationalize and outhawk the GOP is a race to the bottom. You are not going to be a more ridiculous hawk than Ted Cruz or Donald Trump because they will always double down."

New York also obtained modeling from top Republican data firm WPA Intelligence, which indicates taking a tougher stance on China could be a hit or miss strategy in some key Midwestern swing states. In Michigan, for example, 16 percent of voters would apparently respond well to such a message, but 12 percent would potentially scatter. In Pennsylvania, the numbers are even tighter at 29 and 28 percent, respectively. So while it's probably unwise for the Biden campaign to ignore Beijing, they may want to save criticism for the right spots. Read more at New York. Tim O'Donnell

10:49 a.m.

Flu shots are already considered an important factor in combating the coronavirus pandemic, since widespread inoculations will hopefully help prevent medical facilities from becoming overwhelmed by dual diseases. But new research suggests flu shots may also play some role in preventing COVID-19 infections in the first place, The Scientific American reports.

The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, found that workers at Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands who received a flu shot during the 2019-20 season were 39 percent less likely than their colleagues to test positive for the coronavirus as of June 1, 2020. Non-vaccinated employees contracted the virus at a 2.23 rate, compared to only 1.33 percent of those who were vaccinated.

The preliminary research certainly requires further clinical trials (though the author of the study noted it would be unethical to compel a control group of subjects to be denied a flu shot), and there could be several reasons why the vaccinated group staved off infection more easily, including the possibility that they are generally more health conscious and took more COVID-19 precautions.

Still, there have been other studies that hint at a possible link between flu shots — and other vaccines, for that matter — and lower COVID-19 risk. Additionally, the Radboud research team conducted a laboratory experiment, in which they took blood cells from healthy individuals, purified them, and exposed some of them to a flu vaccine. After allowing the cells to grow for a few days, the researchers exposed them to the coronavirus. A day later they found that the vaccinated cells produced more of several kinds of immune molecules that fight off pathogens than those that were initially left alone. Read more at The Scientific American. Tim O'Donnell

10:16 a.m.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is reportedly funding last-minute ad campaigns in two states where Democrats see "opportunities to expand the map," including Texas.

Through his Super PAC, Bloomberg is funding television ad campaigns in Texas and Ohio expected to cost about $15 million, The New York Times reports. Aide Howard Wolfson explained to the Times that the former mayor conducted polling to find President Trump's potential vulnerabilities and decided on Texas and Ohio for this last-minute push. Bloomberg has already said he will spend $100 million to support Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in Florida.

"We believe that Florida will go down to the wire, and we were looking for additional opportunities to expand the map,” Wolfson told the Times. "Texas and Ohio present the best opportunities to do that, in our view."

The Times notes that a poll it published this week showed Trump with a lead of only four percentage points over Biden in Texas, and Wolfson told the Times that Bloomberg's polling suggests the race is even closer.

Meanwhile, NBC News on Tuesday morning released its latest battleground map, and Texas has been moved from "Lean Republican" to "Toss Up." Ohio is also still in the "Toss Up" category.

The NBC map shows Biden with 279 electoral votes, and NBC News' Mark Murray writes that while that math is "not impossible" for Trump, it is "daunting." Brendan Morrow

9:46 a.m.

It turns out Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) agrees with the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, on at least one thing.

"One of Biden's best points," he said during an interview with Jonathan Swan that aired Monday night on Axios on HBO, "was when he said all of these attacks back-and-forth about [Biden's] family and [Trump's] family, they don't matter, what matters is your family. That may have been Biden's best moment, actually."

Cruz then told Swan he doesn't think the Trump campaign's last-minute push to focus on allegations of corruption against Biden's son, Hunter, "moves a single a voter." View more clips of Cruz's interview at Axios. Tim O'Donnell

8:51 a.m.

With the presidential election a week away, Democrat Joe Biden is the clear favorite. Yet "all of us — Republicans and Democrats, journalists and party operatives, political junkies and casual observers — are held hostage by memories of four Novembers ago," when President Trump scored his huge upset, Tim Alberta writes at Politico. "The bad news for Trump supporters: 2020 is nothing like 2016."

"We know what those polls suggest," Peggy Noonan observed in The Wall Street Journal. "But there is little air of defeat among Trump supporters and no triumphalism among Democrats. Trump supporters believe he will win because of his special magic, Trump foes fear he will win because of his dark magic. Pollsters and pundits stare at the data and wonder how to quantify his unfathomable magic."

Real Time's Bill Maher is nervous about the election, too, "but it's not election night, it's Nov. 4 to Jan. 20, and then after," he told Jimmy Kimmel on Monday's Kimmel Live. "It's impossible to imagine, I think, Trump losing and then and then saying, 'Well, we fought the good fight but the best man won, and I'm telling my staff to graciously allow Biden to take over.' No, he's never going to do that. He's going to lose — my prediction. Now, last time I didn't even say Hillary was going to win, when most people did. This time I do think Biden's gonna win by large numbers, popular vote and even the Electoral vote, and then Trump is gonna go apes--t."

Trump "doesn't do losing — other than three marriages, three casinos, four magazines, an airline, a football league, a charity, and a university, he's never lost anything," Maher deadpanned. "So he's not going to go gently into the night. That's what I worry about. And he's a master of 'It isn't written down, so I can do it.'" Watch Maher's explanation of how that might work with the Electoral College below. Peter Weber

8:44 a.m.

Researchers in the United Kingdom say they've observed a "significant" decline in the percentage of the population with COVID-19 antibodies, potentially pointing to "waning immunity."

Imperial College London scientists in the study found the prevalence of COVID-19 antibodies declined from six percent of the British population in June to 4.4 percent in September, Reuters reports. They came to the conclusion that there has been a "significant decline in the proportion of the population with detectable antibodies" by sending out finger-prick tests to a randomly selected group of over 365,000 people in England, according to CNN.

"On the balance of evidence I would say, with what we know for other coronaviruses, it would look as if immunity declines away at the same rate as antibodies decline away, and that this is an indication of waning immunity at the population level," Wendy Barclay, head of Imperial College London's Department of Infectious Disease, said, per Reuters.

The researchers were specifically looking for IgG antibodies in the study, and CNN notes that some other research has suggested "that other types of antibodies may persist longer than IgG does."

But Imperial College London's Helen Ward told BBC News the study suggests that "immunity is waning quite rapidly." Ward added in a statement, "We don't yet know whether this will leave these people at risk of reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19, but it is essential that everyone continues to follow guidance to reduce the risk to themselves and others." Brendan Morrow

7:44 a.m.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health on Monday ended one clinical trial of Eli Lilly's experimental COVID-19 antibody treatment after finding that the drug, "bamlanivimab, is unlikely to help hospitalized COVID-19 patients recover from this advanced stage of their disease." The trial was suspended Oct. 13 out of "an abundance of caution," but the NIH said Monday it had found no significant safety issue with the monoclonal antibody treatment.

Eli Lilly said it will continue testing bamlanivimab with the NIH on mild or moderately ill COVID-19 patients to see if it reduces hospitalizations and severe symptoms. Eli Lilly is also conducting its own separate trials.

Human bodies make antibodies to fight off infections, and Eli Lilly's experimental drug, like a similar treatment from Regeneron, features concentrated copies of one or two antibodies found to be effective at fighting of COVID-19. President Trump was given Regeneron's version when he was hospitalized with COVID-19, and public health experts have high hopes for monoclonal antibody treatments. Eli Lilly and Regeneron are both seeking emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Peter Weber

6:43 a.m.

"The election is just a week away, but the White House is making news for all the wrong reasons," a COVID-19 outbreak in Vice President Mike Pence's inner circle, Jimmy Kimmel said on Monday's Tonight Show. "Yeah, the only place the coronavirus is 'rounding the corner' is in the halls of the White House." And White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the Trump administration is "not going to control the pandemic," he sighed. "They talk about COVID like it's a wild teen on Dr. Phil."

Yes, "Meadows went on CNN to reassure a worried nation that you're on your own," Stephen Colbert said at The Late Show. But while the virus is hitting a third peak nationwide, "the most infectious part of the country is the Trump administration." He laughed at how the White House is keeping the COVID-exposed Pence on the campaign trail by calling him an "essential worker," and explained the administration's proposed COVID-19 vaccine "quid pro ho ho ho" with mall Santas.

"It's interesting how zen Trump's people are about this," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. With migrant children, "they're like: 'Zero tolerance! One is too many! We have to deport!' But with a virus that's killing hundreds of thousands of Americans, they're like, 'Look, man, the virus is trying to make a better life in our lungs. Who are we to stop it?'" If you listen to Trump, though, he's just bored of the whole COVID thing. "I can safely say that I've never seen a world leader get bored of a crisis," Noah said. "But hey, shout-out to COVID for helping Trump understand what we've felt for the past five years every time we switch on the TV and heard his name. 'Trump, Trump, Trump, always Trump.'"

Jimmy Kimmel played a supercut of Trump's "COVID, COVD, COVID" rants. "I think I've figured it out: He's jealous of the virus," he said on Kimmel Live. "He's upset that COVID is getting more attention than he is."

"Election Day is eight days away, which means we're just a few short weeks away from the Supreme Court telling us who we elected," Seth Meyers joked, darkly, at Late Night. "At a campaign event in Maine yesterday, President Trump signed a pumpkin. So if someone could write a stimulus bill right above it, that would be great." Watch below. Peter Weber

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