July 10, 2020

The World Health Organization updated its findings Thursday on how COVID-19 is transmitted, and there are two important changes. First, the WHO acknowledged growing evidence the new coronavirus may spread through aerosols, tiny droplets of saliva that linger in the air for hours, especially in enclosed and poorly ventilated spaces. The second change involved the risk of transmission by people who don't have symptoms. Both issues have broad implications for how to contain the disease.

The WHO maintains that the main route of transmission involves infected people projecting saliva droplets into the eyes, mouth, or nose of people in close proximity, via coughing, sneezing, talking, or singing. The agency also said spread through infected surfaces, or formite transmission, is "likely" though not yet proven. Urine and feces have been shown to contain viable amount of the new coronavirus, too.

The virus can be spread by people who don't have COVID-19 symptoms, the WHO said, but there is an "important" distinction between people who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic) and those who have yet to develop symptoms (presymptomatic), and "the extent of truly asymptomatic infection in the community remains unknown." As a practical matter, Michael Barbaro noted on Thursday's The Daily podcast, the WHO is "making distinctions that don't mean all that much to people who are trying to decide whether to go to work, whether to go to a restaurant, whether to see friends."

The WHO has long dismissed aerosols as a means of transmission except during certain medical procedures, but it now says airborne spread "cannot be ruled out." There's evidence aerosols may have been responsible for "outbreaks of COVID-19 reported in some closed settings, such as restaurants, nightclubs, places of worship, or places of work where people may be shouting, talking, or singing," the WHO said, though larger droplets or contaminated surfaces might also have caused those outbreaks.

"Outdoors, any virus in small or large droplets may be diluted too quickly in the air to pose a risk," The New York Times reports. "But even a small possibility of airborne spread indoors has enormous implications for how people should protect themselves." The new brief mostly shows the WHO's experts interpret the data on aerosols differently, Oxford University's Dr. Trish Greenhalgh tells the Times. "The push-pull of that committee is palpable," she said. "As everyone knows, if you ask a committee to design a horse, you get a camel." Peter Weber

6:33 a.m.

Three people were killed and several others wounded Thursday in a knife attack at a church in Nice, France. The city's mayor described the assault as terrorism, and France's anti-terrorism prosecutor's office said it has opened an investigation. The attacker was wounded, arrested, and taken to a nearby hospital, two police officials told The Associated Press. The man was believed to have acted alone, the officials added. A police source told Reuters one of the victims had her head severed.

The motive for the attack isn't clear, but France has been in turmoil for the past 10 days over the beheading of a Parisian middle school teacher, Samuel Paty, by a Chechen Muslim extremist evidently upset that Paty had shown his class a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed drawn years ago by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The cartoon, considered blasphemous by many Muslims, has been widely displayed in marches to support the slain teacher and freedom of speech. In September, a man seeking asylum had attacked bystanders outside Charlie Hebdo's former office with a butcher knife. Peter Weber

5:48 a.m.

"This campaign has gone on for an eternity," but there are only six days left until the voting stops, Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. President Trump "is spending his time shoring up states he won in 2016," and one clip from a Michigan rally "getting a lot of attention" involves his "attempt to appeal to suburban women," he said. Yes, "Donald Trump's gonna get your husbands back to work so you can get all your lady chores done — like voting for Joe Biden."

Meanwhile, the coronavirus is spreading everywhere, fast, hitting "500,000 new cases in just the past week," Colbert said. "Clearly, we're a long way from ending the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, yesterday a new White House press released announced that one of Trump's biggest accomplishments is 'ending the COVID-19 pandemic.' Now while that is clearly insane, declaring victory prematurely is a proud Republican tradition."

Colbert also joined the mockery of Kim Kardashian West's private-island birthday party. "I'm just worried they're gonna give rich people who do whatever they want on a private island a bad name," he deadpanned. "See you soon, Richard Branson!"

"I wonder if anyone told [Kardashian] she's allowed to have a party and not post pictures of it," Jimmy Kimmel mused on Kimmel Live. "People really went nuts on this one. They're saying this could potentially derail Kanye's presidential campaign." Meanwhile, "members of Trump's own coronavirus task force are said to be personally offended by a release from the White House yesterday that claimed, among other things, that the president ended the pandemic," he said, adding dryly, "You won't see that on MSDNC."

Trump claiming he ended the COVID-19 pandemic is "like the Tampa Bay Rays listing their biggest accomplishment as '2020 World Series Champions,'" Jimmy Fallon said at The Tonight Show. "Keep in mind, though, the White House 'Science' office is just Eric and Don Jr. wearing Bill Nye Halloween costumes," he added. "I was pretty surprised the find out the Trump White House has a science office. That's like finding out The Bachelorette has a science office."

After at a star-crossed rally in Omaha Tuesday night, "everyone was freezing — Trump supporters were like, 'If only there was some way to keep our faces warm,'" Fallon joked. And when the shuttle buses failed to materialize afterward, "some people were actually treated for hypothermia. That's how bad it's getting for Trump: even his supporters are turning blue." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:32 a.m.

We know from Bob Woodward's recorded interviews that President Trump had a good sense of how dangerous COVID-19 was early on and decided to play down the risk to prevent public "panic." But Woodward also spoke with Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, and some of those recordings were shared on CNN Wednesday.

Kushner's April 18 interview focused on Trump's push to pivot from fighting the coronavirus outbreak, which at that point had killed 40,000 people and was ravaging New York, to getting businesses to reopen. "It was almost like Trump getting the country back from the doctors, right?" Kushner told Woodward. "In the sense that what he now did was, you know, he's going to own the open-up." The U.S. was mostly past "the panic phase" and "pain phase" of the pandemic and had arrived at "the comeback phase," Kushner predicted. "Trump’s now back in charge. It’s not the doctors. They’ve kind of — we have, like, a negotiated settlement."

"They wanted to sideline the doctors, simple and clear," CNN's Jamie Grangel paraphrased. "They saw the doctors as adversaries. When you say 'negotiated settlement,' it sounds more like the end of a war." Trump's COVID-19 response was largely guided by Kushner, so it was Kushner's response, too, she added.

Woodward himself told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night that the White House's theory that Trump may even benefit from the pandemic is "a Shakespearean tragedy unto itself."

Kushner also told Woodward that Trump had gotten rid of several "overconfident idiots" — Woodward speculated he meant James Mattis, Rex Tillerson, and Gary Cohn — and said Trump had successfully staged a "full hostile takeover" of the Republican Party. You can listen to more audio excerpts at CNN. Peter Weber

2:15 a.m.

"If you're planning to attend one of those big Trump campaign rallies, well, maybe bring an extra coat," Trevor Noah suggested on Wednesday's Daily Show. He was alluding to the aftermath of President Trump's Omaha rally Tuesday night, when a dearth of shuttle buses afterward left hundreds or thousands of supporters stranded in 30 degree weather for hours, some of them rushed to the hospital.

"I swear, guys, every day there's another way that you can die from going to a Trump rally," Noah said. "First, you could get corona, now you can get hypothermia? By the end of the weekend, Trump is just going to be tossing snakes out into the crowd." Still, he added, "I guess this is a classic Donald Trump move: Leaving his supporters stranded out in the cold."

The Late Show left the jokes to Frozen's Elsa. Peter Weber

1:59 a.m.

When Kevin Ashford heard about a 9-year-old girl whose baseball card collection was destroyed in a fire, he knew exactly what to do with the more than 25,000 cards he had acquired over the last two decades.

Reese Osterberg lives in Fresno County, California, and has been playing baseball since she was in preschool. She began collecting baseball cards about three years ago, and the 100 or so cards she had were lost when the Creek fire recently burned down her family's home. When local firefighters learned that her cards had been ruined, they asked the community to help her get started on a new collection.

Ashford lives in San Jose, and he arranged to have his cards picked up on Tuesday. He told ABC7 he had thought about selling the cards online, but he's glad he held onto them so they can go to Osterberg and her friends. "It's just one thing after another that's been happening here during 2020, and I just want to make it a little easier for these kids," he said. To make the donation even better, Osterberg's favorite player is Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants, and that's one of the cards she'll be receiving. Catherine Garcia

1:30 a.m.

President Trump briefly shared the spotlight with Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) during a rally in Goodyear, Arizona, on Wednesday, telling her she had "one minute" to talk to the crowd, adding, "They don't want to hear this."

McSally is trailing her Democratic opponent, Mark Kelly, in the polls, but at the rally, Trump gave more speaking time to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), and controversial British politician and key Brexit leader Nigel Farage, who flew all the way to the desert to call Trump "the most resilient and brave person" he has ever met.

When it was time for McSally to address the crowd, Trump said, "Martha, come up fast. Fast. Fast. Come on. Quick. You got one minute! One minute, Martha! They don't want to hear this, Martha. Come on. Let's go. Quick, quick, quick. Come on." It was, Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts wrote, "how you might call your dog."

Watching the scene unfold was "painful," Roberts said, as "the president who dodged the draft" was treating "the nation's first female combat pilot with such disrespect."

This wasn't the first uncomfortable moment between Trump and McSally at a rally; earlier this month, Trump was in Tucson, where he heaped praised upon Kelli Ward, chair of the Arizona Republican Party. Ward, he said, was "a warrior" and "a fighter" who is "a friend that's so loyal, and strong and a good person." In 2018, Ward lost to McSally in a three-way GOP Senate primary, and Trump lamented that "she would have been, oh, if she didn't have three or four people running at the same time, she would have been your senator. Hate to say it, she would have been your senator." McSally was in attendance at the rally but never got a chance to speak, Roberts said, adding, "It's baffling that Trump would treat McSally almost as an annoyance in her own state, at a time when she is fighting for every vote." Catherine Garcia

1:27 a.m.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden enters the final week of the 2020 election with a lead of 12 percentage points over President Trump, according to a CNN/SSRS poll released Wednesday. In the poll, 54 percent of likely voters are backing Biden while 42 percent favor Trump. The CNN polls is better for Biden than the national averages from RealClearPolitics, 7.5 points (51.1 percent to 43.6 percent), and FiveThirtyEight, where Biden's 9-point lead (51.8 percent to 42.9 percent) is paired with 88 in 100 odds of winning the Electoral College.

Trump trailed by 16 points in CNN's last national poll, so this is an improvement, but the race has been remarkably steady. "Biden has held a lead in every CNN poll on the matchup since 2019, and he has held a statistically significant advantage in every high-quality national poll since the spring," CNN reports. "All of the data point to an election that is a referendum on an unpopular president, and a sizable share of both candidates' supporters are making their decisions based on their feelings about Trump," whose approval rating sits at 42 percent. CNN broke down some of the big demographic splits on air.

CNN's poll wasn't the only one national survey released Wednesday, "and although there are some outliers in both directions, they tell a fairly consistent story, overall: A steady race nationally, perhaps with some gains for Joe Biden in the Midwest," Nate Silver writes at FiveThirtyEight. Biden appears to be losing a tiny bit of ground in post-debate national polls but gaining in state polls, and he's doing better in higher-quality polls like CNN's than in lower quality ones.

SSRS conducted the CNN poll Oct. 23-26 among 1,005 U.S. adults reached by phone, including 886 likely voters. The poll or likely voters has a margin of sampling error of ± 3.8 percentage points. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads