Twitter bots propel coronavirus reopening discussion: study

Former Twitter VP: Coronavirus will cause many companies to decrease office space

Former Twitter Vice President and author Bruce Daisley argues there’s ‘massive disruption’ coming for the workplace and office spaces, as well as the major cities full of office workers, due to the coronavirus.

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Nearly half the Twitter user discussing coronavirus reopenings on the platform could be bots, a new study by the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science has found.

Researchers collected more than 200 million tweets about the virus starting in January and found that of the top 50 most influential retweeters, 82 percent were bots; of the top 1,000, 62 percent were bots.

Accounts that were possibly humans with bot assistants generated 66 percent of tweets discussing "reopening America," while 34 percent were definitely bots, the study found.

"We're seeing up to two times as much bot activity as we'd predicted based on previous natural disasters, crises and elections," Kathleen Carley, a professor in the School of Computer Science's Institute for Software Research, said in a statement.

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Researchers identified bot profiles using a combination of artificial intelligence and human processes based on a number of factors such as users who tweeted posts faster than humanly possible or users who appeared to be tweeting from two different countries at once.


"When we see a whole bunch of tweets at the same time or back to back, it's like they're timed," Carley said. "We also look for use of the same exact hashtag, or messaging that appears to be copied and pasted from one bot to the next."

Atilis Gym co-owners Frank Trumbetti, center right, and Ian Smith, center, react after meeting with a police officer outside outside their gym in Bellmawr, N.J., Monday, May 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

She added that there has been a surge in bots over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic because many people have more time on their hands and more groups are recruiting firms to run bot accounts all over the world, the study notes.


Because COVID-19 is a global issue, it is widely recognized as "an opportunity to meet political agendas," Carley said. Some of the bots appear to use tactics similar to Russian and Chinese bot accounts.

"We do know that it looks like it's a propaganda machine, and it definitely matches the Russian and Chinese playbooks, but it would take a tremendous amount of resources to substantiate that," Carley said.


Users can identify bot accounts by closely examining profiles; a fake account might tweet posts that contain typos, use the same hashtag or tweet faster than humanly possible, as Carley noted.


"Even if someone appears to be from your community, if you don't know them personally, take a closer look, and always go to authoritative or trusted sources for information," she said. "Just be very vigilant."

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Brazil Tops Russia, Japan Success Puzzles Experts: Virus Update

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Brazil added a record number of cases, overtaking Russia as the nation with the world’s highest number of coronavirus cases after the U.S.

In the U.S., President Donald Trump declared houses of worship as essential and directed governors to let them open “right now,” even though legal experts said he lacks the authority to override stay-at-home orders. The CDC warned though that singing can speed transmission and recommended against sharing items like collection plates.

Anthony Fauci, the U.S.’s top infectious disease expert, said it may be time to consider a cautious reopening of the economy. Oxford University and AstraZeneca started recruiting for advanced human studies of one of the fastest-moving experimental vaccines, while a Russian institute said it used laboratory staff in a successful unofficial test on a potential vaccine.

25,294 in U.S.Most new cases today

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The World Health Organization said the virus has spread now to every country in Africa, where cases have topped 100,000.

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Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus. For a look back at this week’s top stories from QuickTake, click here.

Japan’s Success in Managing Outbreak Puzzles Experts (7:20 a.m. HK)

Japan’s state of emergency is nearing its end with new cases of the coronavirus dwindling to mere dozens. It got there despite largely ignoring the default playbook.

No restrictions were placed on residents’ movements, and businesses from restaurants to hairdressers stayed open. And even as nations were exhorted to “test, test, test,” Japan has tested just 0.2% of its population -- one of the lowest rates among developed countries. Yet the curve has been flattened, with deaths well below 1,000, by far the fewest among the G7 nations. While the possibility of a more severe second wave is ever-present, Japan is set to leave its emergency in just weeks, and likely to exit completely as early as Monday.

Gilead’s Remdesivir Helped Only Those on Oxygen, Study Says (7 p.m. HK)

Gilead Sciences Inc.’s remdesivir, which was authorized to treat Covid-19 in adults and children who need supplemental oxygen, a ventilator or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), only significantly helped those on supplemental oxygen, not the latter two types, a pivotal study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found.

Brazil Overtakes Russia as Second-Most Infected Nation (6:28 p.m. NY)

Brazil added 20,803 cases, bringing the total to 330,890 -- topping Russia’s 326,448 infections. The number of deaths increased by 1,001 to 21,048. That’s still behind some of the most-affected countries in Europe including the U.K., Italy and Spain, along with the U.S..

With the worst-performing stock market and currency globally this year, Latin America’s largest economy no longer seems like a bargain for investors, as a bungled response to the pandemic turned the country into the world’s fastest-growing virus hotspot.

U.K. Police Question Johnson Aide (5:37 p.m. NY)

Boris Johnson’s chief adviser was interviewed by police for potentially breaking the U.K. government’s lockdown rules when he self-isolated with coronavirus symptoms. Police spoke to Dominic Cummings after he was seen more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) from his London home shortly after he went into isolation at the end of March -- a time when the prime minister and Health Secretary Matt Hancock had both tested positive.

At the time, U.K. citizens were under orders not to travel, and to stay at home. Cummings, a divisive behind-the-scenes figure within the administration, lives in London while his parents live in Durham, in northern England. Earlier Friday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said passengers arriving in the U.K. will be forced into quarantine for two weeks and face fines of 1,000 pounds ($1,200) if they break the rules.

Peru Continues Reopening Economy (5:15 p.m. NY)

Peru authorized more businesses to reopen, including hairdressers, electricians and online clothes retailers along with mining, fishing and construction companies that were cleared to reopen this month. The lockdown, which was set to expire Sunday, will continue through June 30, President Martin Vizcarra said.

Peru is battling South America’s biggest coronavirus outbreak after Brazil, with total cases surpassing 100,000 this week. Strict lockdown measures in place since mid-March have taken a heavy toll on the economy, with economic activity slumping 16% in March and more than a million jobs lost in Lima in the three months to April.

CDC Cites Choirs, Collection Plate in Guidance (4:15 p.m. NY)

Religious groups should consider suspending or limiting choirs or singing during services and avoid passing a collection plate, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in guidance issued hours after Trump demanded governors immediately open houses of worship. “The act of singing may contribute to transmission of Covid-19, possibly through emission of aerosols,” the CDC warned.

Churches should stay in contact with local and state officials as reopening decisions are made, and provide protection for staff or congregants who are at higher risk of infection. The guidance encouraged hand washing, use of face coverings and increased cleaning and disinfection measures.

U.S. Cases Increase 1.8% (4 p.m. NY)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased 1.8% as compared to the same time yesterday to 1.59 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That’s above the 1.5% average of the past week. Deaths rose 1.7% to 95,490.

  • New York cases rose 0.5% to 358,154, in line with the average increase over the past seven days, according to the state’s health department.
  • Florida cases rose 1.6% to 49,451 on Friday, compared with an average increase of 1.7% in the previous seven days, according to data from the state’s health department. Deaths rose 2.1% to 2,190.
  • Cases in California rose 2.6% to 88,444 while deaths increased 2.5% to 3,630, according to the state’s website.

Cases Reach All African Nations: WHO (3:15 p.m. NY)

Every nation in Africa now has coronavirus cases, as the continent’s infection total exceeds 100,000, the World Health Organization said. The first Africa case was reported 14 weeks ago.

Africa’s mortality rate has been low, with 3,100 confirmed deaths. By comparison, when cases reached 100,000 in Europe, deaths topped 4,900, WHO said. Early analysis suggests the lower mortality rate may reflect that Africa is the youngest continent, with more than 60% of the population under age 25. In Europe nearly 95% of deaths occurred in those older than 60.

Italy’s Deaths, New Cases Remain Low (12:10 p.m. NY)

Italy’s new cases remained below 1,000 for a 10th day on Friday, as health authorities said the epidemic’s curve is consistently descending in all regions, including Lombardy, the hardest-hit area. Authorities reported 652 cases, up from 642 a day earlier, for a total of 228,658. Daily fatalities were 130, down from 156 on Thursday, bringing the death toll to 32,616.

China Vaccine Shows Promise: Lancet (11:20 a.m. NY)

An experimental vaccine developed by CanSino Biologics of China was safe and generated an immune response in an early study in humans. The vaccine stimulated production of both antibodies that can stop infection along with immune T-cells, according to a report Friday in The Lancet medical journal. Further research is needed to show its effectiveness against the virus. The study was funded by CanSino and conducted by researchers from the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology and other organizations.

“The challenges in the development of a Covid-19 vaccine are unprecedented, and the ability to trigger these immune responses does not necessarily indicate that the vaccine will protect humans from Covid-19,” Wei Chen, a professor at the Beijing institute that carried out the study, said in the report.

Russia Tests Covid-19 Vaccine on Researchers (8:10 a.m. NY)

A Russian government research institute said it conducted successful unofficial tests on a potential coronavirus vaccine. Laboratory staff who volunteered to receive the vaccine at the Gamaleya epidemiology institute in Moscow had no side effects and are healthy, said its director, Alexander Ginzburg, the state-run Tass news service reported. It didn’t state how many people took part in the trial.

— With assistance by Heather Smith, and Rachel Gamarski

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Merchandise exports drop over 60%

With global trade stalling on COVID-19, shipments nosedive in April

With the global trade coming to a near halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s merchandise exports nosedived over 60% in the last month to $10.36 billion from $26.07 billion in April 2019.

Except for iron ore and drugs and pharmaceuticals, all other commodities saw a negative growth.

As per government estimates, service exports for April 2020 — which will be revised later — stood at $17.60 billion, taking India’s overall exports to $27.96 billion, a decline of 36.65% year-on-year.

“The decline in [merchandise] exports has been mainly due to the ongoing global slowdown, which got aggravated due to the current Covid-19 crisis. The latter resulted in large scale disruptions in supply chains and demand resulting in cancellation of orders,” the Ministry of Commerce said.

Ravi Sehgal, chairman, Engineering Export Promotion Council said that the over 60% drop in merchandise exports during April 2020 is no surprise given a near halt in the global trade and it would be a long haul before normalcy returns.

Noting that exporting units, especially in the engineering sectors, are largely MSMEs, Mr. Sehgal said while the MSME package would provide liquidity infusion, the units need straight- forward fiscal support like waiving of electricity charges, water bills, and wage support for survival.

“All dues and refunds should be immediately released to enable exporters to tide over this unprecedented crisis,” he added. Except for iron ore and drugs and pharmaceuticals, which registered a growth of 17.53% and 0.25% respectively, all other commodities registered negative growth in April 2020 vis-a-vis April 2019.

Major commodity groups that recorded negative export growth during April 2020 are Gems & jewellery (-98.74%), Leather & leather products (-93.28%), Handicrafts (-91.84%), Carpet (-91.67%), Jute manufacturing (-90.61%), Man-made fabrics (-84.11%), Ceramic products & glassware (-76.72%), Electronic goods (-71.04%), Tea (-68.89%), Tobacco (-68.47%), Cashew (-67.55%), Petroleum products (-66.22%), Engineering goods (-64.76%) and Meat, dairy & poultry products (-60.34%).

Non-petroleum and Non-Gems and Jewellery exports in April 2020 were $9.08billion as compared to $19.54billion in April 2019, a negative growth of 53.54%.


Merchandise imports in April 2020 stood at USD 17.12 billion, 58.65% lower than imports of USD 41.40 billion in April 2019. Major commodity groups of import that showed negative growth include electronic goods (-62.72%), petroleum, crude & products (-59%), machinery, electrical and non-electrical (-52.91%), Coal, coke & Briquettes (-48.83%) and organic & inorganic chemicals (-35.10%).

Oil imports in April 2020 were 59% lower at $4.66 billion compared to $11.38 billion in April 2019. Non-oil imports in April 2020 were estimated at $12.46 billion compared to $30.02billion in April 2019.

Trade deficit

The merchandise trade deficit for April 2020 was estimated at $6.76 billion as against the deficit of $15.33 billion in April 2019. The statement said, “Taking merchandise and services together, overall trade surplus for April 2020 is estimated at $0.16 billion as compared to the deficit of $8.67 billion in April 2019.”

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Jared, Kay and Zales to Reopen Some Jewelry Stores on Monday

Signet Jewelers Ltd., owner of Jared, Kay, Zales and Piercing Pagoda, will reopen some of its U.S. jewelry shops on Monday as retailers begin to unlock their doors following a prolonged shutdown due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The retailer plans to have 118 stores open by the first week of May in areas where it’s permitted by state and local authorities, the company said on Friday. Some of the shops will be open for pickup service only. Signet has about 2,600 stores and kiosks in the U.S.

Some states, including Texas, Georgia and South Carolina, have started to lift restrictions on business after shutdowns in mid-March. Non-essential retailers that sell products like clothing, jewelry and furniture have lost billions in sales while closed. Macy’s Inc., Dillard’s Inc. and Belk Inc. department stores, as well as Goodwill thrift shops, are among the other retailers that will also welcome customers starting next week.

Malls are reviving as well. Simon Property Group, the nation’s largest mall operator, is reopening 49 of its malls and shopping centers in early May. Signet will have 16 stores reopen among Simon’s locations.

Bill Luth, Signet’s executive vice president of global store operations, said surfaces in the reopened stores will be constantly wiped down and workers will be wearing masks and gloves. Crowd limits will be in place, depending on state requirements.

Signet has also added a new curbside concierge for services like resizing and repairs.

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Icahn Says Stocks Are Overvalued, Virus May Cause ‘Downdrafts’

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Carl Icahn isn’t buying stocks right now. He’s hoarding cash, shorting commercial real estate and preparing for the coronavirus to wreak more havoc.

This is a time to be “extremely careful,” Icahn said in an interview Friday on Bloomberg Television.

From his home on Miami’s Biscayne Bay, the billionaire investor has surveyed the damage to stock prices — and to his portfolio — and reached out to medical experts for information and opinions on the Covid-19 pandemic. To Icahn, who at 84 has traded through all the stock-market crashes since the Great Depression, the future is just too unpredictable for the S&P 500 to be trading at 17 times 2021 earnings estimates.

“You cannot really justify that multiple,” Icahn said. “Short-term, you may have some big downdrafts.”

36,188 in U.S.Most new cases today

-17% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-1.​132 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-0.​5% Global GDP Tracker (annualized), March

The market disagrees. Since the Federal Reserve on March 23 unveiled a series of unprecedented measures to support the U.S. economy, followed by even more in subsequent weeks, stocks have roared back 30% from their intraday low.

Keeping Cash

Icahn, meantime, hasn’t spent the cash he says he always keeps for “a stormy day.”

One of the dividing lines between bulls and bears is the expected speed of the economic recovery. Icahn, who gave $200 million to the medical school at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said he’s been talking to “some of the smartest guys in this area” and formed an opinion of the virus that doesn’t leave him optimistic. He’s concerned about recurrences of infection and believes the economy will reopen in “spurts.”

“It’s not like turning on a spigot,” he said.

Icahn rose to fame and notoriety in the 1980s as a corporate raider. He’s since restyled himself as a shareholder activist, a role in which he’s battled fellow billionaires such as Michael Dell and Bill Ackman. Icahn also supported Donald Trump and in 2017 served as a special adviser to the president.

Many of Icahn’s larger stock holdings are in industrials such as oil refiner CVR Energy Inc. and Tenneco Inc., the auto-parts maker. They’ve been battered by the pandemic.

“We keep it pretty well hedged, but even the hedges couldn’t stop us from losing some money,” he said.

A wily trader, Icahn spotted a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity amid the market gyrations. On April 20, when it seemed the whole world was selling oil and crude futures fell to an unheard-of minus $40 a barrel, he was buying.

Because CVR constantly needs oil to supply its two refineries, Icahn realized he could use it to profit from the frenzy. He said he instructed the Sugar Land, Texas-based company to make space in its storage tanks and put in orders for 1 million to 2 million barrels at negative prices he doesn’t expect ever to see again.

Icahn’s biggest position is a multibillion bet he initiated in mid-2019 against the CMBX 6, an index of commercial real estate mortgage-backed securities.

It’s frequently called the “mall short” because many of the underlying loans are to retail centers. The more the pandemic slows economic activity and drives consumers to shop online, the greater the chances that some of those loans will default.

Since early March, one tranche, or slice, of the CMBX 6 is down almost 30%. Another riskier tranche has fallen more than 40%.

“It’s ‘08 all over again,” Icahn said, likening the trade to wagers that paid off massively when subprime mortgage debt collapsed more than a decade ago.

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Saudi Arabia Races To Contain Epidemic In Islam’s Holiest City

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Saudi authorities are racing to contain an outbreak of coronavirus in the Islamic holy city of Mecca, where crowded slums and labor camps have accelerated the spread even with much of the country under a 24-hour curfew.

The total number of coronavirus cases reported in Mecca, home to 2 million people, reached 1,050 on Monday compared to 1,422 in the capital of Riyadh, a city more than three times the size. Mecca’s large number of undocumented immigrants and cramped housing for migrant workers have made it more difficult to slow the infection rate.

In late March, after five Mecca-based employees of Saudi Binladin Group, one of the kingdom’s biggest construction companies tested positive, authorities locked down housing for 8,000 laborers and suspended work on the expansion of the grand mosque, Islam’s holiest site, according to a document seen by Bloomberg. Some workers were placed in hotel quarantine, the document showed. The company did not respond to a request for comment. It was unclear if the camp remained in lockdown.

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    Shielding Mecca from a pandemic that’s overwhelmed countries like Italy and the United States is crucial for Saudi Arabia. That’s partly because of the city’s significance to the world’s Muslims, but also because the royal family grounds its rule in guardianship of the birthplace of Islam. Millions of Muslim pilgrims visit Mecca each year; King Salman’s official title is “custodian of the two holy mosques.”

    CDC Says U.S. Near Peak; 70 Vaccines in Pipeline: Virus Update

    The government is conscious that the virus sweeping Mecca would “call into question its responsibility in the protection of those spaces, which is part of the legitimacy of the country itself,” said Yasmine Farouk, a visiting fellow in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “This is sensitive.”

    Role of foreigners

    Overall, Saudi Arabia has reported one of the lowest rates of infection in the region, with around 5,000 cases in a population of over 30 million. Mecca was one of the first Saudi cities to be placed under a full-day curfew, and authorities took unprecedented precautions, suspending religious tourism in February and closing mosques across the country in March.

    The outbreak underlines a nationwide issue of soaring cases among foreign residents. Foreigners make up about a third of the Saudi population but account for 70% to 80% of new cases recently, according to the health ministry -- a rate that’s sparked debate about their role in society.

    Some Saudis have attacked foreigners, accusing them of price-gouging, fear-mongering and deliberately spreading infection. Others say that the solution lies in better living conditions for the blue collar foreigners who underpin daily life, driving garbage trucks and cleaning streets. Saudi novelist Mohammed Alwan recently wrote on Twitter that he hopes authorities will create “humane requirements for workers’ housing” after the pandemic.

    Health minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah acknowledged the problem in a televised address on Monday, saying a government committee had been formed to deal with the issue.

    The government has also promised free coronavirus treatment for foreign residents, including undocumented immigrants.

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  • CNN anchor Chris Cuomo says the coronavirus has made him lose 13 pounds in 3 days, hallucinate his dead father, and chip a tooth from the chills

    • The CNN anchor Chris Cuomo has described what it's like to have the coronavirus.
    • He told a CNN town hall on Thursday that sweating from a fever had caused him to lose 13 pounds in three days.
    • He also told his show Wednesday night that the disease caused him to hallucinate his dead father and that his chills were so intense they caused him to chip a tooth.
    • Cuomo said he hoped his description of his symptoms could convince people that COVID-19 wasn't an easy illness to get through, even for healthy people like him.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    The CNN anchor Chris Cuomo says he's lost a dramatic amount of weight since testing positive for the novel coronavirus earlier this week.

    During a CNN town hall Thursday night, Cuomo said he had "lost 13 pounds in three days."

    "I'm a big guy — I started off at 230 pounds," Cuomo said. "My wife is feeding me like we're still in the dating phase. So it's not like I'm hurting for nutrition. I'm eating and drinking constantly. I'm just sweating it out and it's the sickness."

    He said he hoped his descriptions convinced people that COVID-19 wasn't an easy illness to get through, even for healthy people like himself.

    "The idea that it's easy, so you can be nonchalant, that's so misleading," he said.

    Cuomo has continued to work from the basement of his Manhattan home, where he is self-isolating from his family.

    In previous basement broadcasts this week, he said that COVID-19 had caused him to hallucinate his dead father and that he chipped a tooth because his teeth were chattering from intense chills.

    Cuomo is the brother of Andrew Cuomo, who has been widely lauded for his leadership as New York's governor during the coronavirus crisis.

    On Wednesday, the governor invited his little brother to phone in to his daily coronavirus news conference to describe what it's like having the disease.

    The brothers traded jabs, but at the end of the call the elder brother applauded Cuomo for continuing to work and helping Americans understand the virus.

    "I know it's a terrible unfortunate circumstance for you, but think about it from a journalistic point of view, a public-service point of view," the elder Cuomo said. "You're answering questions for millions of Americans."

    Do you have a personal experience with the coronavirus you’d like to share? Or a tip on how your town or community is handling the pandemic? Please email [email protected] and tell us your story.

    And get the latest coronavirus analysis and research from Business Insider Intelligence on how COVID-19 is impacting businesses.

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    Alleged Stock-Dumping GOP Senator’s Coronavirus PSA Does Not Go Down Well

    Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) — who allegedly sold stocks ahead of the coronavirus crisis after attending closed-door congressional briefings about its looming threat — encouraged people to stay strong in a video released online Wednesday.

    Loeffler talked about the “great moments that remind us we’re all humans in this together, working hard to keep each other safe, strong and healthy” in the 36-second clip.

    The PSA was not well received, however.

    Check out the video here:

    Loeffler reportedly sold upwards of $1 million worth of stocks that she held with her husband before markets crashed in response to the pandemic, protecting her from the kinds of losses many Americans have suffered in their retirement savings. 

    Critics slammed Loeffler for failing to warn the public of the scale of the threats posed by the virus, and reminded her that she initially downplayed the danger. The U.S. is now the epicenter of the pandemic.

    Loeffler has defended the transactions, however, tweeting that the investment decisions for her portfolio “are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband’s knowledge or involvement.” 

    “These were completely discretionary trades at the decision of our investment managers,” Loeffler said during a CNBC interview on Friday. “We had no involvement in them, and in fact, I don’t find out about these trades until these reports are compiled at the end of the reporting period.”

    Loeffler’s detractors weren’t buying it:

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