June 29, 2020

The world hit two grim COVID-19 milestones Sunday: The number of confirmed deaths rocketed past 500,000 and the number of cases topped 10.1 million. The actual numbers are certainly higher. Half a million people dying from the new disease is self-evidently horrible, and those deaths have doubled in just seven weeks. But it's also troubling that the number of new cases is still rising — Sunday saw another 24-hour high, 189,000, according to the World Health Organization — because COVID-19 hits many survivors in long-lasting and little-understood ways.

COVID-19 attacks the lungs but also the heart, brain, pancreas, liver, kidney, and other organs. "In addition to respiratory distress, patients with COVID-19 can experience blood clotting disorders that can lead to strokes, and extreme inflammation that attacks multiple organ systems," Reuters reports. "The virus can also cause neurological complications that range from headache, dizziness, and loss of taste or smell to seizures and confusion. And recovery can be slow, incomplete, and costly, with a huge impact on quality of life."

Many patients with severe cases are still suffering from nightmarish delirium and hallucinations in the Intensive Care Unit, weeks after being released from the hospital, The New York Times reports. Dr. Igor Koralnik, chief of neuro-infectious diseases at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, reported in the journal Annals of Neurology that about half of previously hospitalized COVID-19 patients had neurological complications like dizziness, difficulty concentrating, absence of taste and smell, and physical and mental fatigue, and it's still unclear how long these effects last or if they're permanent.

At the same time, "doctors increasingly are looking to the needs of patients who were not sick enough to require hospitalization, but are still suffering months after first becoming infected," Reuters reports. Oxford University's Dr. Helen Salisbury wrote Tuesday in the British Medical Journal that while most coronavirus infections resolve in two to three weeks, about 10 percent of patients experienced prolonged symptoms. For another data point, look at Sweden, the only Scandinavian country to eschew tough mitigation measures.

The Swedish research firm Novus found that in a survey of coronavirus patients, 36 percent still reported being ill 10 weeks after contracting COVID-19.

The U.S. has 125,803 confirmed COVID-19 deaths but 2.55 million cases. Peter Weber

12:47 p.m.

Hello, Democrats.

Seinfeld stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander and creator Larry David are set to reunite for a virtual event on Friday to fundraise for Texas Democrats, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The event has been dubbed "A Fundraiser About Something," and fans can watch a live stream after donating any amount of money to the Texas Democratic Party. It will be hosted by Late Night's Seth Meyers and feature "exclusive behind-the-scenes stories" from the show; the announcement also teased some "special guests."

"Texas is a battleground state, period," Louis-Dreyfus, Alexander, and David said in a statement. "We knew that we had to reunite for something special and the movement on the ground for Texas Democrats up and down the ballot is the perfect opportunity to do just that."

This will be just the latest star-studded Democratic fundraiser to take place in recent weeks. Louis-Dreyfus herself previously participated in a Veep reunion for Wisconsin Democrats, and on Monday, a Happy Days reunion that will also support Wisconsin Democrats was announced. Outside of TV, the cast of Hamilton recently reunited in a fundraiser for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, and Avengers stars like Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson on Tuesday are set for a Biden fundraiser that they're calling "Voters Assemble."

The Seinfeld reunion also comes after Wayne Knight, who played postal worker Newman on the show, reprised the role in an ad encouraging viewers to vote while blasting President Trump's "systematic, premeditated assault on the U.S. mail." Brendan Morrow

12:09 p.m.

Utah's candidates for governor just made history in a very unexpected way.

While Democrat Chris Peterson and Republican Spencer Cox would both like to win the gubernatorial election in just two weeks, they'd also like Utahns to accept the results of the presidential race no matter the outcome. So they banded together for an ad released Tuesday encouraging just that.

In what could be the first time two opposing candidates appeared in one ad so close to the election, Cox acknowledged the candidates are in the "final days of campaigning against each other." "But our common values transcend our political differences," Peterson added, namely their belief that "whether you vote by mail or in person, we will both fully support the results of the upcoming presidential election regardless of the outcome."

"We are both committed to American civility and a peaceful transition of power," Cox added, and Peterson then encouraged Utah to "be an example to the nation."

Cox and Peterson's ad comes as President Trump has repeatedly refused to confirm he'll accept the results of the election if he loses to Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:10 a.m.

Kanye West has dropped an additional $3 million on his doomed presidential bid — and he raised, well, not quite as much.

The rapper's September FEC report showed that he spent another $3 million of his own money on the campaign, and he raised a grand total of $2,782, per reporter Ben Jacobs. Thus far, West has spent nearly $10 million on his campaign.

West announced over the summer he'd be jumping into the 2020 race as a "Birthday Party" candidate, despite it being too late at that point to actually get on the ballot in every state. He recently got around to debuting his very first campaign ad just weeks ahead of Election Day, in which he speaks in front of an American flag with stock footage in between and asks for write-in votes. According to the FEC filing, West apparently paid a production company more than $200,000 for that video, Jacobs reports.

On the off chance that West somehow doesn't defeat President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in two weeks, he has suggested he'll run again in 2024, so in four years, this select group of donors can look forward to opening up their pockets and attending his Birthday Party all over again. Brendan Morrow

10:56 a.m.

North Carolina could be in for a blue wave.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday showed Democratic nominee Joe Biden and President Trump with a statistical tie in the state that's gone red in the past two presidential elections. Also on Tuesday, Sabato's Crystal Ball slid Iowa's Senate race into Democratic territory, leaving North Carolina the only tossup on the map.

In a poll of 646 North Carolina likely voters taken Oct. 12-17, Biden received 49 percent support to Trump's 48 percent, the Post and ABC News found. The poll's 4.5 percent margin of error prevents either candidate from having a distinct advantage, though it mirrors several other polls taken over the past month that all put Biden slightly ahead. The Post/ABC News poll also showed Democrat Cal Cunningham at 49 percent support to Sen. Thom Tillis' (R-N.C.) 47 percent.

Sabato's Crystal Ball, which projects race outcomes across the country, meanwhile made a big change in its Senate projection on Tuesday. It suggested Sen. Joni Ernst's (R-Iowa) seat would likely go to Democrat Theresa Greenfield, predicting a gain of four seats for Democrats and a loss of one in Alabama. That leaves North Carolina the only tossup on the map, and a critical race if Democrats want a Senate majority. If Sabato's projection pans out, Democrats would nab 50 seats, with North Carolina remaining the difference between a tie and blue advantage. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:35 a.m.

The Department of Justice is reportedly about to file a lawsuit accusing Google of violating antitrust law.

The DOJ in a lawsuit that will be filed on Tuesday will accuse Google of "illegally maintaining its monopoly over search through several exclusive business contracts and agreements that lock out competition," The New York Times reports. The news was confirmed by several other outlets including Bloomberg, which described the lawsuit as the "most significant monopoly case to be filed in the U.S. in decades."

Google's parent company, Alphabet, had been a subject of an antitrust investigation that the Justice Department opened in 2019 examining its search and advertising practices, and last month, reports suggested charges were close to being announced. Tuesday's lawsuit, The Washington Post wrote, "marks the start, not the end," of the Justice Department's case against Google, as "it could take years for a federal court to resolve" it.

The Times previously reported that the DOJ during the course of its investigation had "amassed powerful evidence of anticompetitive practices" on the part of Google, but also that Attorney General William Barr was pushing a September deadline on DOJ officials and had "overruled career lawyers who said they needed more time to build a strong case." Brendan Morrow

8:29 a.m.

Scientists will deliberately infect healthy volunteers with the coronavirus as part of the first COVID-19 human challenge trials.

Imperial College London scientists are leading the research, which will be funded by the British government, The Washington Post reports. Andrew Catchpole, chief science officer for the pharmaceutical company set to run the study, explained to the Post a key advantage is that "you get efficacy data so much sooner," as researchers won't have to wait for volunteers who are given vaccine candidates to become naturally exposed to COVID-19.

The first stage of the research, CNN explains, will be a "characterization study" in early 2021 that will involve exposing healthy volunteers to COVID-19 at Royal Free Hospital to determine what the minimum dose is that results in an infection. Researchers then plan to test potential COVID-19 vaccines. Lead researcher Dr. Chris Chiu said in a statement the goal is to "accelerate development of the many potential new COVID-19 treatments and vaccines."

Experts have debated the ethics of proceeding with such challenge trials for COVID-19, given the limited treatment options and potential long-term health consequences, but Imperial College London immunologist Peter Openshaw told the Post, "it is really vital that we move as fast as possible toward getting effective vaccines and other treatments for COVID-19." U.K. Business Secretary Alok Sharma in a statement said this announcement "marks an important next step in building on our understanding of the virus and accelerating the development of our most promising vaccines which will ultimately help in beginning our return to normal."

Regulators and an ethics committee will have to approve the challenge trials before they can begin next year, and an announcement said results are "expected by May 2021." Brendan Morrow

8:07 a.m.

The conventional wisdom is that newspaper endorsements have little to no effect on voters in big national races, but Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has racked up a string of first-ever endorsements from a wide array of publications, including Nature, Scientific American, The New England Journal of Medicine, the Puerto Rican daily El Nuevo Día, and Surfer. On Tuesday, Biden got another one, from USA Today, one of the largest U.S. newspapers by circulation.

"This is not something we do lightly or do eagerly," Bill Sternberg, head of USA Today's editorial board, told Axios. "In 2016, the conservative members of the editorial board could not stomach taking that one extra step and going so far as to endorse Hillary Clinton. ... This time when it was a question of Joe Biden versus Donald Trump, there was a full consensus of the board not just to dis-endorse Donald Trump again, but to go that extra step and endorse Joe Biden."

The editorial board suggested that anyone "still uncertain about which candidate to vote for, or whether to vote at all," should "consider a variation of the question Republican Ronald Reagan asked voters when he ran for president in 1980: Is America better off now than it was four years ago?" Their answer was an emphatic no.

"If this were a choice between two capable major party nominees who happened to have opposing ideas, we wouldn't choose sides," USA Today's editorial board said. "But this is not a normal election, and these are not normal times. This year, character, competence, and credibility are on the ballot. Given Trump's refusal to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power if he loses, so, too, is the future of America's democracy."

Biden has his flaws, the editorial board said, but he "is a worthy antidote to Trump's unbounded narcissism and chronic chaos," and "with his plans, his personnel picks, his experience, and his humanity, Joe Biden can help lead the United States out of this morass and into the future. Your vote can help make that happen." The endorsement ended by hopefully predicting that "we may never endorse a presidential nominee again." You can read the entire editorial, and the counterpoint from Vice President Mike Pence, at USA Today. Peter Weber

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