Covid-19 is spreading further among those around US President Donald Trump, with White House adviser Stephen Miller and a top military official infected.
Mr Miller, who has been self-isolating for the past five days, confirmed on Tuesday that he had tested positive.
Several military leaders are also quarantining after Coast Guard official Admiral Charles Ray tested positive.
Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Joe Biden has said Mr Trump should not debate him if he is still infected.
Speaking about their scheduled second encounter in Miami, Florida, on 15 October, he said he would be guided by medical experts.
“I think if he still has Covid, we shouldn’t have a debate,” he said.
Mr Trump returned to work in the White House from hospital on Monday despite being diagnosed with the disease only last week.
While at Walter Reed Medical Center, he was treated with dexamethasone – a steroid medication usually given to severe and critical Covid-19 patients – and supplemental oxygen.
What do we know about Miller?
The Trump adviser said he was in self-isolation after “testing negative every day” until Tuesday.
He had been closely involved with the president before the latter fell ill, attending a meeting on 27 September to prepare for the first presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio, and later taking flights with him on Air Force One, the New York Times reports.
His wife, Katie Miller, who is Vice-President Mike Pence’s spokeswoman, contracted the virus back in May and later recovered.
In July, Mr Miller’s 97-year-old grandmother, Ruth Glosser, reportedly died due to complications with Covid-19.
The White House denied that coronavirus had caused Mrs Glosser’s death, saying in a statement she had “died peacefully in her sleep from old age”.
But Mr Miller’s uncle produced a death certificate listing “respiratory arrest” and Covid-19 as “a condition leading” to the cause of Mrs Glosser’s death.
Mr Miller – who writes the president’s speeches – is known for his hardline views on immigration.
What’s the latest on the US military leaders?
Adm Ray, vice-commandant of the US Coast Guard, is said to be experiencing mild symptoms.
While officials who attended meetings with Adm Ray last week are now quarantining, none have so far tested positive or exhibited symptoms, the Pentagon said.
It is not known how Adm Ray contracted the virus. The admiral attended an event at the White House about 10 days ago but it is not clear if he contracted the virus there or elsewhere, officials told the Associated Press news agency.
Other White House officials have tested positive for coronavirus in recent days.
The Coast Guard said Adm Ray had tested positive on Monday and was isolating at home. It added that any Coast Guard personnel who had been in close contact with him would also quarantine.
Nearly all members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – a body consisting of senior military officials who advise the US president – are in quarantine after attending meetings with Adm Ray last week, the BBC’s US partner CBS News reports.
In addition to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, those in quarantine are said to include the vice-chief of staff, army chief of staff, chief of naval operations, air force chief of staff, CyberCom commander, Space Force chief, chief of the National Guard and deputy commandant of the Marine Corps.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters there had been “no change to the operational readiness or mission capability of the US Armed Forces”.
“Senior military leaders are able to remain fully mission capable and perform their duties from an alternative work location,” he said.
The Pentagon is conducting contact-tracing related to last week’s meetings.
Will the Florida debate go ahead?
Mr Trump has said he intends to take part despite fears that he will still pose a risk of infection so soon after falling ill.
Asked about the debate, Mr Biden said: “I think we’re going to have to follow very strict guidelines. Too many people have been infected and it’s a very serious problem. And so I’ll be guided by the guidelines of the Cleveland Clinic and what the docs say is the right thing to do, if and when he shows up for debate.”
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh responded by insisting the president would “be healthy and will be there”. “There’s no getting out of this one for Biden, and his protectors in the media can’t cover for him,” he added.
One possible option would be for the two candidates to debate with each other virtually.
Meanwhile, plexiglass will be used to separate Mr Pence and Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris and limit the risk of Covid transmission when they debate in Salt Lake city, Utah, on Wednesday. Both candidates recently tested negative.
An unnamed senior official close to Mr Pence told CBS News he did not want a plexiglass divider on his side of the stage but did not object to Ms Harris and moderator Susan Page having dividers if they wanted them.
Cases rising at the White House
First Lady Melania Trump, aide Hope Hicks and a number of Republican senators have all been confirmed as having the virus.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany has tested positive, announcing her diagnosis on Monday, and three other members of staff in the press office – Chad Gilmartin, Karoline Leavitt and Jalen Drummond – have also tested positive.
Ms McEnany was seen speaking to journalists without wearing a mask on Sunday but said no members of the press had been listed as close contacts by the White House medical unit.
Many of the people in Mr Trump’s inner circle who have tested positive attended a gathering at the White House Rose Garden on 26 September that is being scrutinised as a possible “super-spreader event”.
Another coronavirus case to emerge from that event, at which the president unveiled his nominee for the US Supreme Court, is a Christian minister from California.
Pastor Greg Laurie, who is said to have mild symptoms, was also with Mike Pence earlier that day at a prayer march in central Washington DC.
Operation Fox Hunt: China sent fugitive’s elderly father to America to coerce him into going home, US claims
The US Department of Justice said Wednesday the charges included “conspiring to act in the US as illegal agents of the People’s Republic of China.” Five people have been arrested, while three are believed to be at large in China.
In 2016, the group — which includes an American-licensed private investigator — is alleged to have embarked on an illegal campaign targeting a former Chinese government official, who has lived in the US since 2010. They are accused of recording and harassing his daughter, taping a threatening note to his front door and flying his elderly father from China — allegedly against his will — in 2017 to pressure his son to return to China.
The note on the target’s New Jersey home said in Chinese: “If you are willing to go back to the mainland and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be all right. That’s the end of this matter!”
“Without coordination with our government, China’s repatriation squads enter the United States, surveil and locate the alleged fugitives, and deploy intimidation and other tactics to force them back into China where they would face certain imprisonment or worse following illegitimate trials,” he said.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that Chinese law enforcement agencies “conduct foreign cooperation in strict accordance with international law, fully respect foreign laws and judicial sovereignty.”
“The United States ignores the basic facts and uses ulterior motives to smear China’s work in pursuit of escaped and stolen goods. China firmly opposes this. We urge the US to immediately correct its mistakes,” he said.
Operation Fox Hunt
The Chinese government launched Operation Fox Hunt in 2014 to target wealthy citizens who were accused of corruption and had fled the country with large amounts of money.
Demers said such operations — regardless of whether the targets were guilty or not — were “a clear violation of the rule of law and international norms.”
“Rather than work with US authorities for assistance with recognized criminal cases as responsible nations do, China resorts to extralegal means and unauthorized, often covert, law enforcement activity,” he said.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said at a news conference Wednesday that in a different Operation Fox Hunt case, the Chinese government had sent an “emissary” to the target’s US-based family warning that the person should “return to China promptly or commit suicide.”
Wray said that when Operation Fox Hunt targets refuse to return to China, family members in their home country “have even been arrested for leverage.”
“These are not the actions we would expect from a responsible nation state. Instead they’re more like something we would expect from an organized criminal syndicate,” Wray said.
Van Drew’s defection to GOP haunts him in tight race
Van Drew, like many of his Republican colleagues, now finds himself having to answer for an unpopular president, whose shaky handling of the coronavirus and inflammatory rhetoric has damaged the GOP’s standing nationwide, especially in the suburbs.
Van Drew currently trails in the polls to a well-funded Democratic challenger in Amy Kennedy, a former public school teacher who married into the Kennedy political dynasty. Kennedy is leading Van Drew by five points among registered voters, according to a Monmouth University poll from earlier this month, though it’s within the survey’s margin of error. POLITICO’s election forecasters rate the race as a “toss up.”
Democrats have tried to use Van Drew’s party change and sudden embrace of Trump as a cudgel, branding him as “switcheroo Van Drew” and accusing him of betraying his constituents for his own self interests. In one ad, Democrats even ribbed Van Drew for his taste for flashy suits in a bid to portray him as superficial and inauthentic.
“It felt like he was willing to do or say anything to keep his job,” said Kennedy, who decided to run for office after hearing Van Drew promise his unwavering loyalty to Trump. “There are a lot of people in the district who really respect someone who can be independent-minded, but that’s not what that felt like to them.”
In an interview, Van Drew defended his decision to abandon the Democratic Party, which caught his colleagues off guard and stunned Washington. Van Drew, a dentist who served in the state Legislature for over a decade, noted he was always a conservative-leaning Democrat. But Van Drew argued that the party abandoned its “big tent” principles and was no longer a good fit for him.
Yet despite pledging his fealty to Trump in an Oval Office sit-down, Van Drew now says he is not beholden to any leader — including the president. And Van Drew maintains that voters respect independent-minded politicians, especially in his south Jersey district just outside of Philadelphia, which went for Trump in 2016 but backed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.
“You vote for the person,” said Van Drew, who won his seat by eight points in 2018. “It’s not your job to vote for me, if you were in my district, because I’m a Republican. It’s your job to think about the two candidates and which candidate would do a better job for the district.”
“I didn’t betray anybody,” he added. “When people call me up and they need help, whatever party they are, I help them.”
The match-up between Van Drew and Kennedy — which has become one of the most hotly-contested races in the country — has drawn national attention, with outside resources pouring in. Democrats are not only eager to win back a seat they thought they had already seized in 2018, but also seek revenge for Van Drew’s high-profile defection.
Kennedy, who has notched endorsements from Obama and Joe Biden, has outraised and outspent Van Drew. Kennedy has spent $1.2 million on the airwaves, compared to Van Drew’s $367,000, according to the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. But Van Drew had roughly $600,000 more in the bank than Kennedy as of mid-October, according to the latest FEC reports.
Republicans, meanwhile, have sought to reward Van Drew for joining their ranks while also preventing the GOP from slipping further into the House minority. Since joining the party, Van Drew got a rally from Trump, desirable committee assignments from GOP leaders and a speaking slot at the Republican National Convention.
Notably, Van Drew’s campaign message has focused on calls for bipartisanship and putting country over party. He talks more about American exceptionalism on the campaign trail than he does about Trump, though Van Drew confirmed he plans to vote for the president, despite endorsing home-state colleague Sen. Cory. Booker (D-N.J.) in the Democratic presidential primary.
Van Drew has also tried to label his opponent as a liberal Democrat who supports sanctuary cities, open borders and defunding the police.
“I believe the future of the country depends upon not just my election — of course, I’m not an egomaniac — but on the direction that we take,” Van Drew said. “And the direction that my opponent would want to take is significantly different than the direction I would want to take.”
Switching parties has yielded mixed results in the past, so it was always going to be an electoral gamble for Van Drew, strategists say. He risks infuriating the Democrats who backed him in 2018, while there’s no guarantee Republican voters will trust him. And independents might be turned off by his tight embrace of Trump.
Nearly half of registered voters said they were bothered by Van Drew now running for Congress as a Republican, according to the Monmouth University poll.
Crossing the aisle may have looked like a safer bet for Van Drew during the height of impeachment, when there was widespread concern that swing-district Democrats could suffer at the polls because of the party’s efforts to oust the president.
Had he remained in the Democratic Party and maintained his opposition to impeachment, Van Drew would have likely faced a primary challenge from the left. Before he became a Republican, polling commissioned by Van Drew’s campaign showed just 24 percent of Democratic primary voters believed the congressman deserved to be reelected.
But the political landscape has changed vastly since then. Trump’s approval ratings have slumped both nationally and in Van Drew’s district. The sagging economy is further clouding the outlook for Republicans up and down the ballot. The Monmouth University poll has Joe Biden with a narrow, three-point lead over Trump in a “high turnout” election in the district.
“The president’s popularity has gone down. That hurts someone who pledged undying allegiance to Trump,” said Mike DuHaime, a Republican operative and former adviser to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Meanwhile, many frontline Democrats are actually well-positioned heading into November, defying expectations and fueling hopes that their party could actually pad their majority even further. And the election has largely been dominated by the coronavirus — not impeachment.
“No one cares about impeachment anymore. It seems like 10 years ago, not 10 months ago.” DuHaime added.
On the coronavirus, Van Drew has echoed Trump’s rhetoric. He railed against health restrictions dampening the economy, highlighted how Trump overcame the virus, criticized D.C. residents for wearing masks even alone in their cars and called on Washington to “go big” on a stimulus package.
“You know what makes people upset where I am in my district? The people that went out of business, the people that lost everything they own, the people that can’t even keep their homes, the people who work for the casinos,” he said.
Van Drew also said he has worked tirelessly on constituent services during the pandemic, which could help boost him in the race. And GOP strategists say Van Drew will likely once again attract some crossover voters — but it may not be enough.
“He has always won because people transcended party to vote for him. But is that enough in a year where Trump is so dominant on the ballot and affecting how everyone views everything?” DuHaime asked. “Now, just so many people this year are voting party-line to send a message to Trump.”
The NHS Covid-19 App Has Only Had Half The Downloads NHS Advisors Say It Needs To Help Stop the Coronavirus Pandemic
2 min read
The official NHS Covid-19 app has only been downloaded by 40% of adults with eligible smartphones—half the number researchers say is needed to effectively halt the spread of the virus.
Experts from the University of Oxford claimed in April that 56% of the general population, or 80% of current smartphone owners, would need to use a contact-tracing app for it to be effective in helping stop the coronavirus.
Speaking to the BBC earlier this year, Professor Christophe Fraser, a member of the modelling team which advised the NHS on the contact tracing app, said this was “a very ambitious target”.
But he added that the app would still have an effect if fewer people downloading it, with his team estimating that one infection could be averted for every one to two users.
The app, which tracks who a user has been in contact with using anonymous bluetooth data, has now been downloaded 19 million times since it went live on 24 September, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
These latest figures came alongside an announcement of the latest updates to the app, which included improvements to its accuracy and fixes to prevent incorrect exposure notifications.
Following its launch, some users complained that they had received notifications from the app telling them to self-isolated which later disappeared.
But, a DHSC spokesperson insisted such messages were “default privacy notifications from Apple and Google, who provide the underlying framework on which this and many other countries’ Bluetooth contact tracing apps are based.”
The most recent update has reportedly improved the app’s ability to judge the distance between users and so better estimate when there is a risk of infection.
Gaby Appleton, director of product for NHS Test and Trace, said she hoped these changes would “make it as simple as possible to keep users and their loved ones safe”.
“We are thrilled that over 19 million people have chosen to download the app to help protect their loved ones while preserving their privacy, and that over 680,000 QR codes have been created by businesses to support digital contact tracing,” she continued.
The DHSC also announced that the NHS Covid-19 app, which currently only operates in England and Wales, will soon become interoperable with contact tracing apps in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Jersey and Gibraltar.
Under a proposed system set to be launched in November, users who test positive on any of the apps can choose to upload their anonymous Bluetooth key to all app users across the UK.
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