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Trump “was likely the largest driver of the COVID-19 misinformation 'infodemic,’” study says

Socialapps.Tech 14 Oct 1

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard, Betsy Klein and Maggie Fox

President Donald Trump holds a news conference at the White House on September 23.
President Donald Trump holds a news conference at the White House on September 23. Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg/Getty Images

A new study suggests that mentions of President Trump played a big role in conversations involving Covid-19 misinformation in the first few months of the pandemic.

"We conclude that the President of the United States was likely the largest driver of the COVID-19 misinformation 'infodemic,'" the researchers wrote in the study.

The study, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, was released online by the Cornell Alliance for Science on Thursday. Co-author Sarah Evanega said the peer-review process was taking too long and the authors chose to post it without outside input, and to alert news media, for quicker release.

The researchers — from Cornell University and Cision Global Insights in Michigan – analyzed media coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic across the Internet, podcasts, television, radio and other platforms between January 1 and May 26. The alliance is funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The analysis showed that English-language media outlets published more than 1.1 million articles mentioning Covid-19 misinformation.

Among those articles, the researchers found five different sub-sections of topics that emerged within the overall Covid-19 misinformation conversations:

  • Various misinformation sub-topics such as "miracle cures" and conspiracies, which made up 46.6%
  • Mentions of Trump within broader misinformation conversations, which made up 37.9%
  • Coverage of the spread of misinformation or the "infodemic" itself, which made up 23.4% fact-checking, which made up 16.4%
  • Mentions of Trump only in the context of misinformation, which made up 10.3%. 

"It is apparent from the data that mentions of President Trump within the context of COVID-19 misinformation comprise by far the largest single component of the infodemic," the researchers wrote. "Trump mentions comprised 37.9% of the overall infodemic, well ahead of 'miracle cures', which comprised 26.4%." 

The White House did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

From CNN's David Close

The NFL has announced the Tennessee Titans have additional members of the team who have tested positive for Covid-19. There are now five players and six staff who have tested positive for the virus this week. 

The league had originally planned to reschedule Sunday's postponed Titans game with the Pittsburgh Steelers for this coming Monday or Tuesday but now says the game will be slated for later this year.

The Titans facilities remain closed with no in-person activities allowed.

The NFL statement in full reads:

The Pittsburgh-Tennessee game scheduled for Week 4 will be rescheduled to later this season after one additional Titans player and one personnel member tested positive for COVID-19 today. An announcement of the new game date will be made shortly. 
The decision to postpone the game was made to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel. The Titans facility will remain closed and the team will continue to have no in-person activities until further notice.

From CNN’s Jordan Valinsky

A person leaves an H&M store on June 18 in San Francisco.
A person leaves an H&M store on June 18 in San Francisco. Michael Short/Bloomberg/Getty Images

H&M is closing 250 stores next year because of the coronavirus pandemic, as people increasingly shop online.

The fast-fashion retailer has 5,000 stores worldwide, so Thursday's announcement accounts for 5% of its total store count. 

 "More and more customers started shopping online during the pandemic," following temporary store closures that, at its peak, totaled about 80% of its store count, H&M said in a statement Thursday.

The Swedish retailer said its third quarter, which encompasses sales from June to August, recovered as time went on because of store reopenings and "strong and profitable" growth in online shopping. Still, September sales declined 5% compared to the same month a year ago. 

"Although the challenges are far from over, we believe that the worst is behind us and we are well placed to come out of the crisis stronger," CEO Helena Helmersson said in release.

The coronavirus has accelerated the trend toward online shopping, which was already disrupting the retail industry and battering major chains before the pandemic hit. H&M rival Inditex, which owns Zara and other fast-fashion brands, said earlier this year it plans to close as many as 1,200 stores this year and next.

H&M and Inditex aren't the only retailers feeling the pinch. American Eagle Outfitter and GameStop also recently announced plans to close hundreds of stores because of the rise of online shopping.

From CNN's Clare Foran, Manu Raju, Phil Mattingly and Lauren Fox

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, center, leaves the Capitol in Washington, DC, after meetings on September 30.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, center, leaves the Capitol in Washington, DC, after meetings on September 30. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

As coronavirus pandemic continues to hammer the US economy, House Democrats held off on a planned vote Wednesday night on their $2.2 trillion stimulus proposal to allow more time for bipartisan negotiations in a last-ditch effort to reach a deal just weeks before Election Day.

Latest on the negotiations: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are still far apart, however, as negotiations continue, according to four sources briefed on the talks.

Despite optimistic words from Pelosi and Mnuchin, sources briefed on the talks said that reaching an agreement with the backing of Senate GOP leaders and the White House remains a tall order.

But for now, the two plan to continue to talking, with House Democrats delaying a vote on their own plan to create room for the two sides to come closer to a deal on Thursday.

The stimulus package: Still, the topline cost of a final package — which had been the defining hurdle throughout weeks of inaction — has narrowed, the people said, with Mnuchin's proposal running above the $1.5 trillion that the Trump administration had signaled it was open to in the talks.

But it remains short of the current $2.2 trillion House Democratic proposal — and it's far more than what Senate Republicans are willing to accept given that their conference united around a $500 billion proposal.

More importantly, the people said, the actual details of the various pieces remain far from ironed out, with issues like funds for state and local governments and the shape of liability protections still nowhere near agreement.

Mnuchin told Fox News Wednesday night that President Donald Trump had instructed him and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to significantly increase the amount of money in a White House proposal, however, he would not say if there's a magical number that would lead to a deal.

What comes next: Mnuchin said he would most likely speak with Pelosi again Wednesday night but he didn't think there would be significant progress until Thursday, when the two sides plan to continue the conversation to try and add details to the talks and narrow differences.

"We're gonna go back and do a little bit more work," Mnuchin told reporters as he left the Capitol Wednesday. "We've made a lot of progress in a lot of areas."

Time is running out, however, to strike a bipartisan deal before Election Day and pressure is running high, with lawmakers facing questions from constituents in need amid the economic and public health fallout from the pandemic.

Read more here.

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on the Data and Safety Monitoring Board.
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on the Data and Safety Monitoring Board. CNN

The Data and Safety Monitoring Board, a group of experts in areas like statistics, ethics and vaccine development, views “unblinded” coronavirus vaccine data as it starts to come in, reports CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta. 

“They know who got the vaccine, who got the placebo, they’re the ones who figure out if it's time to say this is working. That's not a political decision,” according to Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

They can advise companies to apply for FDA review or might bring a trial to a halt, according to Gupta. 

Susan Ellenberg, a professor of biostatistics at UPenn’s Perelman School of Medicine and a Covid-19 DSMB member, agreed to speak with CNN. 

“I think you feel powerful. You feel responsible. You know that everybody's trusting you with these data,” she said.  

“We have certainly never been in a situation where the national leadership has seemed to be so involved, directly involved, in these kinds of processes,” she told Dr. Gupta about President Trump’s claims that the White House can overrule the FDA's attempt to toughen guidelines for a coronavirus vaccine.  

Members of the board go through an extensive vetting process.

“We want to know they're fully independent, that they have no prior, you know, relationships with the company so that they're not conflicted any way,” Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research. 

Watch:

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

On Wednesday, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said if its Covid-19 vaccine is proven safe and effective, it could be available to the general population by late March or early April.

Moderna began its Phase 3 clinical trial for a Covid-19 vaccine in the US in July. It's one of four companies that have begun Phase 3 Covid-19 vaccine trials in the US — the others are Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca.

The AstraZeneca trial was paused after an unexplained illness in a volunteer, and US health authorities are still considering crucial questions that remain around the injections of the experimental vaccine.

"I think a late Q1, early Q2 approval is a reasonable timeline, based on what we know from our vaccine," Bancel said at a conference hosted by the Financial Times.

But there are several steps that will have to come before that.

If the safety and efficacy data checks out, Bancel says he expects Moderna will be able to file a Biologics License Application (BLA) with the US Food and Drug Administration by late January or early February. That application asks the FDA to consider fully licensing a drug, while an emergency use authorization (EUA) expedites a drug candidate for use on an emergency basis.

Moderna could file for an EUA as early as November 25 for people who are deemed high priority, including health care workers and the elderly, Bancel said at a conference hosted by the Financial Times.

Until a vaccine is available, experts have for long said the country's most powerful tools against the pandemic are face masks and other safety measures like social distancing.

But even when a vaccine is ready, health officials like Fauci have said there will still be room for the virus to spread, as it's unlikely the vaccine will be 100% effective or taken by 100% of the population.

"I think if we can get 75 to 80% of the population vaccinated, I think that would be a really good accomplishment," Fauci said last week.

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

 Construction workers are seen on a job site in Miami, Florida on September 4.
Construction workers are seen on a job site in Miami, Florida on September 4. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

America's jobs recovery continues, albeit at a slow pace, as another 837,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, on a seasonally adjusted basis. 

That was slightly fewer from the prior week, although last week's figures notably do not include updated numbers from California, which paused processing initial claims for two weeks. The state is working on a large backlog in benefits claims and implementing fraud prevention. The Labor Department estimated California's initial claims numbers by duplicating the prior week's reported claims figures.

Claims under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that Congress created to help workers who wouldn't usually be eligible for benefits, such as the self-employed, stood at 650,120.

Adding these together, there were 1.4 million total first-time claims for benefits last week, roughly even with the prior week.

Continued claims, which count workers who have filed for benefits for at least two consecutive weeks, stood at 11.8 million on a seasonally adjusted basis.

 The slowing pace of the decline in initial jobless claims is another piece of evidence that the economic recovery is running out of steam.

Thursday's Labor Department report on jobless claims is just the latest in this week's report card on the labor market: the government's jobs report — the last before the election — is due on Friday.

Economists expect 850,000 jobs were added back in September, bringing the unemployment rate to 8.2%, down from 8.4% in August.

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Families across the US are struggling to pay rent and face evictions despite an eviction moratorium until the end of the year.

In September, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order to temporarily halt evictions through the end of 2020.

Umu Conteh told CNN’s Kyung Lah that she contracted Covid-19 in June at a nursing home where she worked. The Columbus, Ohio, resident was out of work for two months and is now working as a home health care aid making $12 an hour. She said she has now been given 30 days to pay the rent she owes.

“I’m just thinking about my kids. Where do I go with my kids?” she said through tears.  

Melissa Benson of the Legal Aid Society of Columbus said the moratorium “absolutely [does] not” mean that cases aren’t being filed against tenants.

The order puts the responsibility on the renter to ensure they meet the criteria and to provide a signed written statement to their landlord in order to invoke the protection. It doesn’t freeze rent or relieve tenants from having to pay back rent.

“It is really overwhelming and scary. ... They could say we have to move out in a week, and we don't know,” said Shaylynn Webb, mother of an 8-month-old. 

Kyung Lah reported that about half the people she spoke to in one day in Columbus worked in health care, “the ones who walk by those hashtag signs that say ‘heroes work here.’” 

Watch:

From CNN's Mick Krever, Sebastian Shukla, Vasco Cotovio and Emma Reynolds

TNO employees work during the opening of a COVID-19 testing site in Amsterdam, on September 30.
TNO employees work during the opening of a COVID-19 testing site in Amsterdam, on September 30. Koen van Weel/ANP/AFP/Getty Images

After successfully tamping down the first surge of infection and death, Europe is now in the middle of a second coronavirus wave as it moves into winter.

UK: England’s largest study of coronavirus infections show the spread of the disease may be slowing, according to a team at Imperial College London, who analyzed samples from 84,000 people taken between September 18 to 26.

The study suggests that the latest R-value (the reproductive number) had decreased from 1.7 to 1.1 -- but that a range of values from 0.7 to 1.5 mean that an accurate figure is hard to gauge. 

While the findings provide early evidence that measures to control the infection are working, "the prevalence of infection is the highest we have recorded to date," Professor Paul Elliott, the director of the study Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT 1), said.

The findings, however did point to an increase in the spread of the virus in the community. The study estimated that 1 in 200 people across England have the virus, amounting to 0.55% of the population.

This is an increase in previous round of testing from the middle of August to the beginning of September, where the figure was 0.13% of the population. 

Netherlands: More than 10,000 people in the Netherlands died from Covid-19 in the first wave of the pandemic, new statistics released on Thursday by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) show.

In the months March through June, there were 7,797 deaths in which a doctor listed Covid-19 as the cause of death, and an additional 2,270 in which Covid-19 was listed as the suspected cause of death, totaling 10,067.

This toll is significantly higher than the less comprehensive numbers from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, which reported 6,086 deaths for the same months March through June, and a total of 6,406 deaths as of Wednesday.

Germany: Germany lifted its blanket warning against traveling to all countries outside the European Union, the country’s foreign ministry announced Thursday. 

Germany imposed a global travel warning at the beginning of March when the coronavirus outbreak hit Italy, lifting travel restrictions for most European countries in June. 

Spain: The government announced new coronavirus restrictions last night, which would put the capital Madrid into a form of lockdown.

The new restrictions require people to stay at home except to go to work, classes, and to meet legal obligations or due to extreme circumstances. Shops, bars and restaurants will be forced to reduce their capacity by 50% and to close earlier.

Gatherings will remain restricted to no more than six people, in both public or private spaces.

Spain reported 11,016 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday. Madrid alone reported 1,586 new infections, accounting for more than 40% of the national increase.

Italy: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he will ask parliament to extend the country's Covid-19 state of emergency until the end of January.

Speaking during an impromptu press conference in Caserta, Conte said that the Covid-19 situation requires "maximum attention," even though the "spread is under control."

Italy was the first major European country to be affected by the coronavirus outbreak, and among the first countries to impose a strict national lockdown.


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