WASHINGTON — Two Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have tested positive for the coronavirus, raising questions about upcoming Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett and whether additional senators may have been exposed.
North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis and Utah Sen. Mike Lee both said Friday that they had tested positive for the virus. Both attended a ceremony for Barrett at the White House on Sept. 25 with President Donald Trump, who announced Friday that he had tested positive and was later hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Lee, who did not wear a mask at the White House event, said he had “symptoms consistent with longtime allergies.” Tillis, who did wear a mask, said he has no symptoms. Both said they will quarantine for 10 days — ending just before Barrett’s confirmation hearings begin on Oct. 12.
The positive tests come as Senate Republicans are pushing to quickly confirm Barrett in the few weeks they have before the Nov. 3 election. There is little cushion in the schedule set out by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who want to put Trump’s third hand-picked justice on the court immediately in case they lose any of their power in the election.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Hit by COVID-19, Trump taken to military hospital
— GOP faces election reckoning with Trump's virus strategy
— 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:
SEOUL, South Korea __ South Korea’s new coronavirus daily tally has remained in two digits for a third straight day as authorities called for public vigilance during one of the country’s biggest holidays.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Saturday that the 75 virus cases added in the past 24 hours took the country’s total to 24,027 with 420 deaths.
South Korea’s caseload has recently displayed a downward trajectory following a spike in new infections between early August and mid-September. Stringent social distancing rules were credited with slowing the outbreak.
But worries about a rebound in new cases have grown again as South Korea is on the traditional autumn “Chuseok” holidays this week that would certainly increase public mobility.
LANSING, Mich — A 1945 law repeatedly used by Gov. Gretcher Whitmer to respond to the coronavirus pandemic was declared unconstitutional Friday by the Michigan Supreme Court, a striking decision that puts months of restrictions in jeopardy while COVID-19 continues to flare up around the state.
The opinion is an extraordinary development in a monthslong conflict between Whitmer, a Democrat, and Republicans who control the Legislature and have complained that they’ve been shut out of major orders that have impacted education, the economy and health care.
Coincidentally, the court’s action emerged on the same day that Whitmer’s foes submitted more than 539,000 signatures in a bid to repeal the 1945 law.
The governor said the 4-3 decision, with Republican-nominated justices in the majority, was “deeply disappointing.” But Whitmer didn’t signal that she was giving up. She said her emergency declaration and related orders still can remain in place for 21 days, and then many of them will continue “under alternative sources” of law.
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.
SANTA FE, N.M. -- Economic analysts say that New Mexico is risking a public backlash and possibly overlooking recovery opportunities by not conducting an economic analysis of its pandemic-related health restrictions.
State and independent analysists told a panel of legislators Friday that consumer confidence is key to the state’s recovery as time goes on. Staff at the budget and accountability office of the Legislature said the state should consider incorporating more economic indicators into its pandemic policy decisions and build an economic dashboard to better track progress of economic recovery.
The administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is taking a cautious approach to lifting health restrictions and reopening the economy.
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 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.
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.
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
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.