CHICAGO — News that President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus sparked an explosion of rumors, misinformation and conspiracy theories that littered social media feeds.
By Friday morning, nearly 30,000 Twitter users had retweeted a variety of conspiracy theories about the news, according to an analysis by VineSight, a tech company that tracks online misinformation.
The news is ripe for foreign and domestic internet instigators to exploit by pushing online disinformation about the two presidential candidates and opens the door for unwitting people to spread misinformation without realizing what they’re sharing is false, experts say.
Facebook said Friday that it immediately began monitoring misinformation around the president’s diagnosis and had started applying fact checks to some false posts.
Twitter, meanwhile, was monitoring an uptick in “copypasta” campaigns — which are attempts from numerous Twitter accounts to parrot the same phrase over and over again to inundate users with messaging — about Trump’s illness. The social media company said it was working to limit views on those tweets.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Trump and first lady test positive for coronavirus; both have ‘mild symptoms’
— Russia reports more than 9,000 new cases in a day
— Trump’s positive diagnosis sparks an explosion of rumors and conspiracy theories
— Trump has several strikes against him — age, obesity, elevated cholesterol and being male — that could put him at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus.
— Siblings, grandparents and adult children of Canadians and permanent residents are among those who will soon be exempt from COVID-19 border restrictions in Canada.
— There’s a growing number of world leaders who have been infected with the coronavirus. President Donald Trump joins British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
MISSION, Kan. — Health officials in Kansas’ largest county are making it easier for older students to head back to class even as coronavirus outbreaks in schools and sports infect hundreds statewide.
Johnson County’s health department released new criteria Thursday that allow middle and high schoolers to switch to a hybrid mode in which they go in-person part of the time and learn at home the rest as long as there are safety precautions in place such as masks and daily symptoms screenings, The Kansas City Star reports. Health officials previously said that younger students could return to classrooms full-time.
The move comes as the suburban Kansas City county averaged 113 new cases each day last week, which was the third highest new case count since the pandemic began, epidemiologist Elizabeth Holzschuh said. And cases have been rising among children under the age of 19 and showing up in schools.
Even with many students still learning online, 104 of Johnson County’s 169 public schools, or more than 60%, have implemented at least one quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure, officials said.
“We know there will be cases,” Holzschuh told the board of commissioners at its weekly meeting Thursday. “This is not surprising to us. The goal is not to have that widespread transmission and those cases pop up throughout the school.”
The final decision on whether to move from remote to hybrid learning for older students will be made by the county’s individual school districts, which have been the focus of ongoing protests demanding that all students be allowed to learn in person, five days a week.
Statewide, Kansas added 1,362 new confirmed and probable cases from Wednesday to Friday, bringing the total to 61,111. Kansas also added 20 more deaths, raising the overall number since the pandemic began to 698. However, the number of coronavirus cases is thought to be higher because people can be infected without feeling ill and because of limited testing early in the pandemic.
ST. LOUIS — As Missouri Gov. Mike Parson continues to recover from the coronavirus, his office is declining to say how many members of his staff also have tested positive.
Parson’s spokeswoman, Kelli Jones, has not responded to several requests for information on staff illnesses, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday. Jones did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Associated Press.
The decision not to provide information on illnesses within the office differs from the practice of other state agencies that have routinely reported virus cases since the pandemic began. For example, the Missouri Department of Corrections has reported 613 positive tests among employees since the onset of the pandemic, and the Department of Mental Health says 384 workers have tested positive, with four deaths.
An estimated three dozen people work closely with the Republican governor. Parson and his wife, Teresa, tested positive on Sept. 23. Neither has developed serious symptoms.
Parson’s office earlier confirmed a number of staffers on his team were in quarantine and working from home after the Parsons’ positive tests.
BATON ROUGE, La. — As the nation processed the news that President Donald Trump has COVID-19, Republicans in the Louisiana House on Friday backed a package of measures aimed at unraveling the state’s coronavirus restrictions in an ongoing dispute with Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The nine pieces of legislation vary in approach. One would overturn Edwards’ coronavirus executive orders for a month. Others would give lawmakers more ability to jettison all or part of future orders — or extensions of existing COVID-19 restrictions — the governor wants to enact. Another would require bars and restaurants to be treated the same in emergency orders.
“In order to have oversight, we have to have information and a seat at the table,” said Rep. Stephen Dwight, a Lake Charles Republican.
The proposals — which won support largely on party-line votes with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed — move next to the Senate for debate. Senators earlier this week unanimously backed a more modest approach that would give lawmakers more oversight of emergency decisions, but no new authority to jettison a governor’s emergency orders.
BANGKOK — Thailand’s self-exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra says he was hospitalized for about two weeks after diagnosing himself as having the coronavirus.
Thaksin, a 71-year-old billionaire whose main residence is in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, discovered he was infected there in late August when he tested himself with a high-tech gadget made by a company in which he is an investor, an unofficial spokesman in Bangkok for the Shinawatra family said Friday. Wim Rungwattanachinda said Thaksin tested positive again when he went to a hospital, and he was treated for about two weeks before being released.
Thaksin founded a political party after becoming a billionaire in the telecommunications sector, and became prime minister after winning a 2001 election. He was reelected in 2005, but the army ousted him in a coup in 2006, after which he faced several charges related to abuse of power and corruption. Thaksin claimed the cases against him were political persecution, and fled Thailand while on bail after a conviction on one of the charges for which he was handed three years’ imprisonment. His investment in a UK-based company that claims on its website to have rolled out a “rapid, lab-free COVID-19 test,” is just one of several business interests
MADISON, Wis. — President Donald Trump canceled his two weekend campaign rallies in Wisconsin after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Republicans in the battleground state of Wisconsin showed no signs of backing down in their attempts to undo the mask mandate imposed by the Democratic governor.
Wisconsin Republicans, who control the Legislature, filed a motion in support of a lawsuit that seeks to undo a statewide mask order issued by Gov. Tony Evers. A hearing on the case was scheduled for Monday.
Coronavirus cases are surging in Wisconsin, which ranks third nationwide in new cases per capita over the past two weeks, threatening to overwhelm hospitals. Wisconsin has broken daily records for new cases and deaths in recent days. On Tuesday, the state’s chief medical officer said Wisconsin was in “crisis.”
Evers, along with local health and elected officials, had urged Trump to reconsider the Saturday rallies in Green Bay and Janesville hours before he tested positive. Trump’s rallies typically attract thousands of people, most of whom don’t wear masks despite guidance from state and federal health officials that masks are an effective way to slow the spread of the virus.
LONDON — The European Medicines Agency has started a safety review after some patients taking the coronavirus drug remdesivir reported serious kidney problems.
The EU regulator says it isn’t clear whether remdesivir is causing the reports of “acute kidney injury,” but that the issue “warrants further investigation.”
Remdesivir was given a conditional marketing authorization by the EMA on July 3 and can be used to treat people older than 12 with severe COVID-19 who require oxygen treatment. The approval for the drug was fast-tracked with the understanding that more evidence would be submitted after a license was granted
The EMA says the potential problem of kidney toxicity caused by remdesivir was evaluated when the conditional approval was given, mainly based on animal studies. It noted that kidney injuries can be caused by other factors, including diabetes and the coronavirus.
The regulator says recommendations for the use of remdesivir remain unchanged; doctors are already advised to monitor patients for kidney complications before starting treatment and not use the drug in patients with known kidney problems.
LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization says he wishes U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania a “full and swift recovery” after hearing they were infected with the coronavirus.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the world is still reporting about 2 million new cases of coronavirus every week. He appealed for countries to invest more in developing necessary tools like vaccines, drugs and quick diagnostic tests.
Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, declined to respond to suggestions that Trump’s dismissal of numerous public health measures aimed at reducing the spread of coronavirus, including mask-wearing and social distancing, may have contributed to his infection.
He says despite the escalating case count in the U.S., “there is no reason the U.S. cannot control this disease, turn a corner (and) get the disease under control.” He noted such an effort would require tremendous work and money.
DES MOINES — Iowa posted more than 1,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases for the third consecutive day.
State public health data posted Friday indicated 1,142 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, with a 90,754 total of cases since March. The state posted nine additional deaths for a total of 1,367.
Iowa averaged nearly 900 cases a day in the past week. On Friday, 85 of Iowa’s 99 counties have a positivity rate exceeding 5%, the rate at which many public health experts recommend measures to slow the spread, including mask wearing and limits on crowd numbers.
Gov. Kim Reynolds has declined to issue a mask mandate, has largely opened the state for business and insists that schools must hold in-class lessons.
ATHENS, Greece – Greece hit a new record with 460 daily confirmed infections on Friday.
Total infections have nearly reached 20,000 cases. With five more deaths, the overall toll has reached 398.
Officials says there’s no need for new lockdown measures, provided the public obeys existing ones.
The infections Friday included 114 cases among workers at a canning factory in northern Greece, which has been closed. Starting Saturday, visitors from Poland and the Czech Republic will be among those needing a negative coronavirus test before traveling to Greece.
MILAN — Italy has counted nearly 2,500 new coronavirus cases for a second straight day.
There’s been more than 120,000 tests. The southern region of Campania topped the ranks at 392 cases, followed by hard-hit Lombardy at 307.
The Health Ministry says total cases reached nearly 320,000. Another 23 died in the last 24 hours, bringing the confirmed death toll to 35,941.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Dr. Ashish Jha, a leading infectious diseases expert, called President Donald Trump’s infection with the coronavirus “a total failure” to protect him.
Jha, the new dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, tweeted Friday: “This is a nightmare. COVID19 is a serious infection, especially for someone who is older like Mr. Trump. I can’t believe he was infected. This is a total failure by WH team to protect the President.”
Trump tweeted Friday that he’s quarantining in the White House, along with wife Melania, who also tested positive for the coronavirus.
A White House official says the president is experiencing “mild symptoms.”
Trump has spent much of the year downplaying the threat of a virus, which has killed more than 207,000 Americans.
DETROIT — Bus riders were stranded Friday in Detroit as drivers concerned about the coronavirus refused to report to work.
A union official says drivers were having conflicts with riders about wearing masks and facing other challenges.
“Just because you ask someone about a mask, you’ve got to fend for your life,” Glenn Tolbert told The Detroit News. “It’s getting to the point with COVID and all the other pressures … all of these things are just piling up. I’ve got people quitting on a daily basis.”
Detroit buses serve an average of 85,000 people a day.
In March, early in the pandemic, drivers staged a strike over safety and the condition of their buses. In response, Detroit eliminated fares, promised more cleaning and told riders to enter and exit from the rear door only. Masks are mandatory.
Detroit’s chief operating officer, Hakim Berry, says the city is listening to new concerns and working to get drivers back on the road.
A driver died of the coronavirus in March, days after posting an angry video on Facebook about a coughing passenger.
YAKIMA, Wash. — Two hospital nurses have filed a complaint with the Washington State Department of Health, saying staffing and sanitation practices are putting patients and staff at risk during the pandemic.
The Yakima Herald-Republic reports Sylvia Keller and Alice Westphal say Virginia Mason Memorial has been dangerously understaffed, resulting in nurses working every day “in anticipation of a disaster.”
Virginia Mason Memorial declined comment because of hospital protocol prohibiting comment on an ongoing investigation. Health Department spokesperson Kristen Maki confirmed the agency received the allegations but couldn’t confirm or deny if an investigation was opened.
HONOLULU — The family of a man who died after being infected with the coronavirus in a Hawaii veterans’ home has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported the sons of Chris Drayer filed the lawsuit against the operator of the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo, where 27 resident have died from the coronavirus.
Noah Bennett-Drayer and Daniel Bennett-Drayer allege their father died as a result of substandard care by Utah-based Avalon Health Care and four of its affiliates. The 70-year-old U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam was tested for the coronavirus Aug. 28 and died Sept. 2.
HONOLULU — Up to 100,000 Hawaii residents receiving unemployment benefits are expected to receive $500 meal cards for use in restaurants throughout the state.
The money will be distributed through the Restaurant Card Program. It will distribute $75 million in the form of the debit-style cards to people who began receiving unemployment benefits after March 25.
The program funded by federal coronavirus relief money is designed to help struggling restaurants and farmers. Registration is not required for the nontransferable cards, which will be delivered by mail. The cards can only be used in restaurants between Oct. 20 and Dec. 15.
As the state continues to reopen, each island can set its own rules. On Oahu, the state’s most populous, restaurants are operating up to 50% capacity, with no more than five people from the same household per table. Diners need to make reservations and provide their contact details.
BRUSSELS — Speaking in the name of all 27 EU leaders, European Council president Charles Michel wished Donald Trump a prompt recovery after the U.S. president and his wife tested positive for coronavirus.
Speaking after a two-day meeting of heads of states and governments from the bloc in Brussels, Michel was asked by a reporter what lessons could be drawn from Trump’s positive test.
“Of course, we all wish him a speedy recovery,” Michel said, “But of course, personally I will not give a health advice.”
LONDON — A Scottish National Party lawmaker at the U.K. Parliament is under pressure to resign for travelling from London to Glasgow after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Margaret Ferrier apologized for breaching virus-related restrictions on travel but is facing growing calls to quit. That includes calls from her party leader, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
The SNP leader Ian Blackford told BBC Radio Scotland that Ferrier had made a “tremendous error of judgment” and now must “do the right thing for her constituents.”
The SNP suspended Ferrier from the party on Thursday after learning of the breach.
People in Britain are told they must self-isolate if they have coronavirus symptoms and when they are waiting for a test result after reporting symptoms.
PORTLAND, Maine — The median age of people who contract coronavirus in the state of Maine is trending downward.
Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director Nirav Shah says the median age was 51.3 from March through the end of May. It dipped to 41.4 for the months of June through September.
He says the possible reasons include an increase in economic and social activity in recent months. Shah says the drop in median age is a motivator to maintain social distancing and take other precautions.
NEW YORK — Amazon says nearly 20,000 of its workers have tested positive or been presumed positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.
Amazon says in a corporate blog it examined data from March 1 to Sept. 19 for its 1.37 million workers at Amazon and Whole Foods Market.
It said it compared COVID-19 case rates to the general population, as reported by Johns Hopkins University for the same period. Based on that analysis, if the rate among Amazon and Whole Foods employees were the same as it is for the general population, it estimated it would have seen 33,952 cases among its workforce.
The company says it is conducting thousands of tests a day, which will grow to 50,000 tests a day across 650 sites by November.
Companies have no legal obligation to publicly reveal how many of their workers have contracted the virus, and few are doing so.
However, employers must provide a safe working environment, which means they must alert staff if they might have been exposed to the virus, according to guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. They are obligated to keep track of COVID-19 infections contracted on the job, and must report to OSHA if there is a hospitalization or death related to the disease.