Coronavirus Newsbites

New Zealand political party's misleading campaign video makes false ‘forced’ coronavirus vaccination claim
A video claiming New Zealand's ruling party has changed the law to "force" citizens to get a coronavirus vaccine has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The claim is false. The video, which was created by a New Zealand opposition party, takes footage of ruling-party politicians speaking in parliament and cuts key parts of their sentences to doctor the meaning of the exchange. An AFP analysis of the original parliamentary footage found the politicians were actually discussing plans to require people entering New Zealand to be vaccinated against COVID-19 -- not a mandatory immunisation program for citizens. New Zealand's Ministry of Health said compulsory vaccinations would contravene the country’s bill of rights.

Melania offers sympathy to coronavirus victims in sombre speech as White House guests not tested for Covid
In a sombre address to the Republican National Convention (RNC), Melania Trump told Americans that “you’re not alone”, as she struck a sympathetic tone on the pandemic that has seen almost 180,000 lives lost.

But pictures of her audience are the latest sign that the Trump administration is not taking things as seriously as it could be. Attendees in the Rose Garden did not observe social distancing. Few wore masks and some guests were not tested for Covid-19, according to a person who attended the speech. The First Lady’s chief of staff told CNN that the people seated in the rows near the President and Vice President were tested, as was anyone who came into close contact with them.

That came despite Ms Trump stressing that her husband, president Donald Trump, “will not rest until he has done all he can” to combat the Covid-19 virus on the second night of the Republican convention.

A coronavirus chart that will shock you
Almost 6 in 10 registered Republicans said they considered the current number of coronavirus deaths to be "acceptable," while 43% said it was unacceptable.

Among Democrats, 90% say the number of coronavirus deaths is unacceptable. That number is 67% among political independents.

What explains the discrepancy? Partisanship, mostly.

Thanks to President Donald Trump, many Republicans believe that any acknowledgment that the Covid-19 pandemic has not been handled perfectly -- or at least as well as any president could be expected to do -- is somehow an admission that Democrats (and the media) are right in their criticisms of Trump.

And so, when asked whether 177,000+ of their fellow citizens dying is acceptable, which it clearly is not, they say it is -- because to say anything else would be disloyal to Trump.

The logical fallacy built into this way of thinking is that Covid-19 is a public health problem, not a political problem. Simply lining up in your partisan camp won't make it go away. Democrats and Republicans get the coronavirus. Democrats and Republicans die from it.

Until we start to realize that what party you belong to makes zero difference to this virus, we are going to continue to struggle to do the things we need to in order to mitigate its spread -- from social distancing to mask-wearing.

And until we all can acknowledge that the loss of 177,000 people is not just unacceptable but an ongoing tragedy, we are losing the sense of unity and purpose that the country was founded on.

Patients were infected twice with the coronavirus, say virologists
Two European patients, one in Belgium and one in the Netherlands, have been infected twice by the coronavirus, virologists say.

...The news comes after a 33-year-old man living in Hong Kong was reported to have had Covid-19 twice this year, according to preliminary research.

“This case illustrates that re-infection can occur even just after a few months of recovery from the first infection. Our findings suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may persist in humans as is the case for other common-cold associated human coronaviruses, even if patients have acquired immunity via natural infection or via vaccination,” the researchers wrote in their study.

US university sues Facebook over "Covid party" Instagram account it says is linked to Russia
Arizona State University (ASU) has sued Facebook in a US federal court over the company’s lack of cooperation in providing details and taking down an Instagram account that was advertising “Covid parties” and spreading misinformation about the school’s response to the disease, court records show.

Instagram is owned by Facebook.

When asked about the lawsuit, a Facebook company spokesperson said that they "have removed the account in question for violating our policies.” Facebook disagreed that the account infringed on any ASU trademark rights, and would not comment on the account’s origin, citing user privacy reasons.

Experts refute misleading claims about Apple and Google’s coronavirus contact tracing interface
A screenshot showing the COVID-19 Exposure Notification System, a contact tracing programme developed by Apple and Google, has been viewed thousands of times on Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, and Instagram alongside a claim that the interface has been secretly inserted onto phones and tracks user’s location. The claim is misleading; the interface does not track location, users must choose to activate exposure notifications and the system can be turned off at any time, according to Google, Apple and independent experts.

CDC program involves Covid-19 vaccine distribution, not injection, in North Dakota
Facebook posts claim Native Americans in North Dakota will be the first subjects to receive a novel coronavirus vaccine, in one case citing a local news article as “evidence.” This is false; North Dakota was selected by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be part of a project preparing for vaccine distribution -- not injection -- once Covid-19 shots are approved.

Trump, Hahn Mischaracterize Data on COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma
In a hyped press briefing the eve of the Republican National Convention, President Donald Trump falsely said that convalescent plasma had been “proven to reduce mortality by 35%,” even though the therapy has not yet been shown to be effective for COVID-19.

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn also mischaracterized the data, inaccurately saying that a relative mortality decrease of 35% between those given high- versus low-concentration plasma meant that administering plasma would save 35 out 100 people sickened with COVID-19. That’s not right, and exaggerates the observed effect.