Coronavirus Newsbites

CNN Coronavirus Update
At his coronavirus briefing last night, the President went off script and launched into a series of false and misleading claims about the state of the pandemic. At one point, Trump claimed that "large portions" of the US are "corona free" (not true). He also claimed that protests in Seattle and Portland were leading to spiking cases there (also not true). He launched a stunning new pitch for hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that has not been shown in rigorous clinical trials to be an effective treatment for Covid-19. He also complained that the government's top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, had better approval ratings than he did.

And when pressed by CNN's Kaitlan Collins about his words of support for a doctor who downplayed masks and suggested alien DNA was used in medical treatments, the President cut the briefing short and stormed out.

Thousands showed up maskless to a Minnesota rodeo after its organizer invited people to come protest government overreach
Gov. Tim Walz's latest Covid-19 plan, which went into effect June 10, prohibits public gatherings of more than 250 people in an effort to curb the virus. According to the latest numbers, the state has seen more than 50,000 coronavirus cases.

... This incident is the latest in a string of protests across the US against social distancing and mask requirements enacted to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Many have spoken against the requirements, arguing that they impede basic freedoms. It's led to protests across the country, as well as threats of violence, including against store employees who try to enforce the mandates and public health officials.

Minnesota Republican county official resigns after posting image comparing mask wearing to Nazi Germany
It featured a black and white image of a Nazi officer and a man wearing a six-pointed Star of David -- which those of the Jewish faith were required to wear as identification in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. The image was captioned, "Just put on the star and quit complaining, it's not that hard" at the top of the image, and, "Just put on the mask and stop complaining" at the bottom.

Belarus President dismissed Covid-19 as 'psychosis.' Now he says he caught it
The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has said he contracted coronavirus but recovered without suffering any symptoms, state-run news agency Belta reported Tuesday.

Lukashenko has repeatedly dismissed the threat posed by Covid-19, touted home remedies and refused to shut down his country, making Belarus an outlier in Europe.

"I apologize for my voice, lately I have to talk a lot. But the most surprising thing is that today you are seeing a person who managed to power through coronavirus standing on his feet," he said during a visit to a military base, according to Belta. "Doctors made this conclusion yesterday — it was asymptomatic."

"Like I said, 97% of our people go through this illness without symptoms and thank God I've managed to get into this group of asymptomatic people," added Lukashenko, citing an unsubstantiated statistic.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in fact estimates that about 40% of people infected with Covid-19 don't experience any symptoms.

... The strongman leader has notoriously dismissed coronavirus as mass "psychosis" and recommended that citizens enjoy a traditional sauna or drink vodka "to poison the virus." He has been widely criticized for refusing to impose strict coronavirus restrictions during the pandemic.

Lukashenko, who has ruled since 1994, has not limited his own public appearances during the pandemic and went ahead with an annual military parade in May. He has also continued to gather in-person government meetings and played hockey throughout the pandemic.

"It's better to die standing than to live on your knees," he said, rinkside in full hockey gear, in an interview with state television in late March

Why these retail chains won't require customers to wear masks
Foot Locker (FL) and supermarket chain Hy-Vee say they aren't introducing mask mandates because they are difficult to enforce, and they don't want to put their workers in the position of having to tell shoppers to put on facial coverings.

... The varying policies on masks show how retailers are finding themselves in a tough position as coronavirus cases grow, prompting concern over containing the spread of the virus in stores. Retail industry groups have said that mask mandates for customers should come from the state governors or federal officials, but on July 15, the National Retail Federation, a top lobbying group for the retail industry, also called on all retailers to create mask requirements for customers.

There is no federal mandate to wear a mask and many state and local governments have not required wearing one. Additionally, some law enforcement officials around the country have said they will not enforce mask-wearing orders. This has forced retailers to navigate a patchwork system, leaving them in the position of having to create their own mask policies.

Russia has been publishing English-language articles to spread COVID-19 disinformation to Americans, US officials said. It could skew the 2020 elections as it did in 2016.
  • Russia is creating fake news articles about the COVID-19 pandemic and aiming them at Americans, US officials told The Associated Press (AP). They said that Russia's secretive GRU military intelligence unit runs three websites that have produced 150 articles about the pandemic, many critical of the US response.
  • The websites — InfoRos.ru, Infobrics.org, and OneWorld.press — have also stirred up anti-US sentiment and attacked Democratic candidate Joe Biden, the AP said.
  • The disclosure adds to fears that there could be a repeat of 2016, when Russia tried to damage Donald Trump's rival Hillary Clinton with a disinformation and hacking campaign.
  • Wednesday marks 97 days until the 2020 presidential election.