Covid-19 Live Updates: Trump Is ‘Single Largest Driver’ of Virus Misinformation, Study Finds

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Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Of the flood of misinformation, conspiracy theories and internet falsehoods about the coronavirus, one common thread stands out: President Trump.

That is the conclusion of researchers at Cornell University who analyzed 38 million articles about the pandemic in English-language media around the world. Mentions of Mr. Trump made up nearly 38 percent of the overall “misinformation conversation,” making the president the largest driver of the “infodemic” — falsehoods involving the pandemic.

The study, to be released Thursday, is the first comprehensive examination of coronavirus misinformation in traditional and online media.

“The biggest surprise was that the president of the United States was the single largest driver of misinformation around Covid,” said Sarah Evanega, the director of the Cornell Alliance for Science and the study’s lead author. “That’s concerning in that there are real-world dire health implications.”

To those who have been watching Mr. Trump’s statements, the idea that he is responsible for spreading or amplifying misinformation might not come as a huge shock. The president has also been feeding disinformation campaigns around the presidential election and mail-in voting that Russian actors have amplified — and his own government has tried to stop.

But in interviews, the researchers said they expected to find more mentions of conspiracy theories, and not so many articles involving Mr. Trump.

The study identified 11 topics of misinformation, including various conspiracy theories, like one that emerged in January suggesting the pandemic was manufactured by Democrats to coincide with Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial.

But by far the most prevalent topic of misinformation topic was “miracle cures,” including Mr. Trump’s promotion of anti-malarial drugs and disinfectants as potential treatments for Covid-19. That accounted for more misinformation than the other 10 topics combined, the researchers reported.

They found that of the more than 38 million articles published from Jan. 1 to May 26, more than 1.1 million — or slightly less than 3 percent — contained misinformation.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

House Democrats abruptly postponed a planned vote Wednesday evening on a $2.2 trillion stimulus plan, putting off action until Thursday to leave time for a last-ditch round of negotiations with the Trump administration to produce a deal.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin earlier said that they had made progress in their talks, but Ms. Pelosi’s decision to schedule an evening vote on the Democratic bill — one which Republicans had made clear they could not support — suggested that a compromise remained unlikely.

Her retreat signaled that agreement might in fact still be possible. Two aides, insisting on anonymity to describe private deliberations, said Democratic leaders had decided to allow one more day for talks to bear fruit.

“We made a lot of progress over the last few days,” Mr. Mnuchin told reporters as he left the Capitol. “We still don’t have an agreement, but we have more work to do and we’re going to see where we end up.”

The Democrats’ latest bill cuts $1.2 trillion from their original $3.4 trillion measure, which was passed by the House in May. But the measure was all but guaranteed to die in the Republican-led Senate, with Republicans dismissing it as far too expensive.

“We’re very, very far apart,” declared Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader.

But rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties have increasingly been agitating for another vote on a relief package before the elections, as the economic recovery shudders and tens of thousands of workers are either furloughed or laid off as a result of the pandemic.

Credit…Josh Ritchie for The New York Times

Tens of thousands of airline workers are bracing for a wave of furloughs starting Thursday after a widely supported effort to renew federal stimulus funding for the industry failed to overcome a congressional stalemate.

American Airlines and United Airlines told employees on Wednesday night that they would proceed with more than 32,000 furloughs, though both companies said they would reverse course if lawmakers provided the funding the industry had sought.

“I am extremely sorry we have reached this outcome,” Doug Parker, American’s chief executive, said in a letter to staff. “It is not what you all deserve.”

Passenger airlines received $25 billion in payroll funding under the March stimulus law known as the CARES Act, on the condition that they refrained from broad job cuts until Oct. 1. Unions representing airline workers had garnered bipartisan support in Congress for another round of aid in recent weeks, but the effort was caught in the deadlock over a broader stimulus package, even after airline executives pleaded their case in Washington.

The pandemic’s toll on air travel and the industry has been so severe that tens of thousands of airline employees have already volunteered to take pay cuts, unpaid leave for an extended period, buyouts or early retirement.

Global Roundup

Credit…Dado Galdieri for The New York Times

Wars, disease and political turmoil have never prevented Rio de Janeiro from putting on its famous carnival. Now, the pandemic has forced a suspension of the annual parade for the first time since 1932.

“I want this moment to come, this moment when we will celebrate life that defeats death, when we will reunite, gather,” said Leandro Vieira, the artistic director of Estação Primeira de Mangueira, one of Rio’s most traditional samba groups. “But this moment is not possible yet.”

Faced with a pandemic that has killed nearly 144,000 people — Brazil’s toll is second only to the United States — a deep economic crisis, and a president whose inner circle is engulfed in a growing number of criminal and legislative investigations, Rio residents are being robbed of the moment of catharsis that many look forward to year-round. Few places have been hit as hard as Rio de Janeiro, a state of 16 million people where the virus has killed more than 18,000.

The decision to suspend the parade will deprive the city of an important source of revenue and its citizens of performances that often deliver skewering political commentary.

But the heads of the city’s leading samba organizations found that without a vaccine, conditions would not be safe.

With the official parade postponed indefinitely, it is unclear if — and how — Rio residents will celebrate come February, when the festivities are scheduled.

“I feel like crying, seeing they haven’t started the work of building the floats,” said Nicilda da Silva, 80, who was elected queen of the Porto da Pedra samba group this year and helps plan their parade. “But our hands are tied.”

In other developments around the world:

  • Singapore’s civil aviation authority said the city-state would no longer require visitors from Vietnam or most of Australia to self isolate, starting on Oct. 8, as long as they pass a Covid-19 test on arrival and have not traveled to other countries in the two weeks leading up to the flight. The new rules do not include the Australian state of Victoria, which reported 15 new cases on Thursday. Self-isolation requirements were lifted for travelers from Brunei and New Zealand on Sept. 1.

  • South Africa will begin allowing some international tourists to enter the country on Thursday, for the first time since a national lockdown took effect in March. In a blow to hopes of reviving the country’s tourism sector, at least a dozen high-risk European countries, the United States and most of Latin America will remain on a no-fly list.

Credit…Juan Arredondo for The New York Times

New York City is reopening all its public schools on Thursday in a milestone for the city’s recovery from its position as the global epicenter of the pandemic and a hopeful sign for the country’s unsteady effort to return children to classrooms.

Middle and high school students are being welcomed to school buildings, and elementary school children started earlier this week.

About half a million students, from 3-year-olds in pre-K programs to high school seniors, have now returned to school for the first time since March.

Roughly another 480,000 children have opted to start the school year remote-only, an indication of how wary many New Yorkers are of sending their children back to classrooms in a city that still fears a second wave of the virus.

Despite considerable political opposition to reopening and significant planning problems that forced Mayor Bill de Blasio to twice delay the start of in-person classes, New York, which has by far the nation’s largest school system, is now the only large district in the country that has reopened all its schools.

Some other big districts are not far behind, though they have faced their own challenges. Schools in Miami-Dade are set to reopen on Monday, at the order of the Florida state education commissioner, despite the strong opposition of the teachers’ union. And school leaders in Houston, San Diego and Washington, D.C., are planning on bringing at least some students back into classrooms later this month.

Sports Roundup

Credit…Douglas P. Defelice/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning won the National Hockey League’s top trophy on Monday from within the confines of a 24/7 pandemic bubble in western Canada, and without any fans in the arena to watch.

By Wednesday, the players were back in Florida, greeting hordes of unmasked fans who turned out to celebrate their victory. No one appeared to mind that the state had passed 700,000 confirmed coronavirus cases a few days earlier and was reporting an average of at least 2,200 new cases a day over the past week.

Wednesday’s celebration began with a boat parade by Lightning players through downtown Tampa, and segued into a party in a local stadium that was attended by about 12,000 to 15,000 people, according to The Tampa Bay Times.

“It almost feels like what we’re doing now is, like, wrong,” one fan, Wes King, said.

Photos from the event showed thousands of unmasked fans cramming together on the bank of the Hillsborough River as unmasked players from the Lightning floated by on motorboats, drinking beer and puffing on cigars.

Other unmasked players slapped hands and posed for selfies with fans who had jammed together into a receiving line, and even allowed fans to drink from the cup, as winning teams normally do.

“So … why did they spend months in a bubble if they were just going to go Covid crazy the minute they were released?” one Canada-based Twitter user wrote. “Not the brightest bulbs.”

The N.H.L. was the first of the four major North American pro sports leagues to complete a season during the pandemic. It chose to base its playoff “bubbles” in Toronto and Edmonton because of their relatively low infection rates, especially compared with cities in the United States.

Players, team and league staff members, and medical officers were fenced off inside “secure zones” that included hockey arenas, practice facilities and hotels. Broadcasters stood at a social distance while interviewing players on the ice. And many players went weeks, or months, without seeing their families.

Even the league’s commissioner, Gary Bettman, had to produce negative tests during a weeklong home isolation, then quarantine in his hotel room for several days, before he could present the Stanley Cup to the Lightning.

“There’s no harder championship to win,” Mr. Bettman said before handing the trophy to the team’s captain, Steven Stamkos. “The gauntlet that you have to run to hoist this trophy is unbelievable, and never more unbelievable than this year.”

In other sports news related to the pandemic:

  • The N.F.L. has moved the Pittsburgh Steelers-Tennessee Titans game — originally scheduled for Sunday — to next week to allow more time to test members of the Titans for the virus. At least four Titans players and five employees have tested positive, the league’s first outbreak since the beginning of the season.

  • Major League Baseball said it would sell tickets to the National League Championship Series and the World Series this October, both of which will be held at the Texas Rangers’ new retractable-roof ballpark in Arlington. The American League Championship Series will be played in San Diego, but the league could not get approval from California to sell tickets there.

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