A SUV ran over the 14-year-old a few weeks before Christmas last year. She says she was walking the two blocks between her home in Clive, Iowa, and her junior high school to watch a basketball game.
“Her intention was clear … because she looks Mexican,” Natalia’s father, Cesar Miranda told CNN, referring to what the driver told police.
In the year following a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, multiple attacks targeting Latinos and immigrants have taken place across the United States.
The case remains pending in Polk County court. CNN has reached out to the public defender representing Poole Franklin but has not heard back.
Since the incident, Natalia and her family said they have constantly battled with anger, fear, and the teen’s mental and physical recovery.
Natalia has dreamed more than once that the same SUV returns and “runs over in her upper part of her body like it’s going to finish her up,” said Dalila Alonso Miranda, the teen’s mother.
While the state case remains pending, Natalia’s family is calling for federal hate crimes charges to be brought against Poole Franklin.
“If you don’t charge someone with a hate crime when they tell you that that’s why they did it, then when will you?” Alonso Miranda said.
More hate crimes reported, less federal prosecutions
Bias against Black or African American people overwhelmingly comprises the largest category of reported hate crime offenses pertaining to race, according to the FBI data.
In the past few months, more incidents involving Asians and Black people were reported than in the previous two years, Levin says, but it doesn’t mean the anti-Latino sentiment is gone.
“We have ticking time bombs across the country and we don’t know who they’re going to hit exactly but we know who they hate,” Levin said.
Gerstenfeld, whose primary field of study is hate crimes, said there could be more incidents that remain unknown to authorities because victims don’t feel comfortable reporting them.
“Hate crimes in general don’t get reported to the police very often, but particularly with some communities of victims. Latinos, especially if they’re undocumented or they have poor relationships with police, are not going to report them,” Gerstenfeld told CNN.
‘We are in America, we don’t speak Spanish here’
The mother, Vasquez, said that when one of the women approached her, she asked her daughter to translate and the woman began yelling at them and assaulted them. CNN is identifying the mother by her last name for privacy and security concerns.
“She yelled, ‘We are in America, we don’t speak Spanish here, speak English!,'” Vasquez, 46, told CNN. The mother did not identify which one of the two women yelled at her.
During the altercation, Vasquez said she was bitten on her right thumb and hit multiple times while her daughter was punched in the face multiple times and pulled by the hair.
Two women — Jenny Leigh Ennamorati, 25, and Stephanie Armstrong, 25 — were each charged with two counts of violating constitutional rights with bodily injury and two counts of assault and battery charges, the district attorney said. Both cases have probable cause hearings scheduled for September.
They told police they heard the Vasquezes laughing and speaking Spanish and believed they were making fun of them, according to a police report, which redacted the women’s names but they were later released by prosecutors.
CNN has reached out to an attorney representing Ennamorati but has not heard back. William J. Barabino, an attorney representing Armstrong, said video recorded by a bystander and the “accuser statement” shows that his client “never laid a hand on anyone.”
“Eventually, she went over to the physical dispute and can be seen extending both arms in an effort for all to calm down. That isn’t a crime and we expect that a judge or a jury will eventually reach that same conclusion,” Barabino said in a statement emailed to CNN.
The incident has haunted Vasquez since then. For weeks, she says her daughter would wake up scared and crying at night and constantly asked why anyone would treat them like that. They have been mostly at home since the incident because of the pandemic and her daughter has been talking with a counselor but Vasquez is concerned about how she would interacts with more people when classes resume.
Fear may have kept many other victims silent, Vasquez says, but she can’t let hatred and bigotry go unpunished. Even after the Vietnamese restaurant where she worked closed due to the pandemic and she struggled to find another job for nearly four months, she hasn’t stop talking with others about the incident and working with her attorneys.
“There’s Asians, Latinos, everything in this country and still others haven’t understood that we deserve the same respect than people who were born in America,” Vasquez said.
CNN’s Rebekah Riess and Gregory Lemos contributed to this report.
US coronavirus: The country could see ‘further suffering and further death’ if coronavirus isn’t controlled, Fauci says
“If you look at the deaths as they’re occurring right now — about 1,000 per day — unless we get our arms around this and get it suppressed, we are going to have further suffering and further death,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. “That’s the reason why, as I’ve often said many, many times, there are things that we can do right now in the absence of a vaccine that can turn us around,” he added.
States crack down on social gatherings
Birx said that among the states officials are tracking, there seems to be a “household” pattern of infections that starts with young people, usually less than 30 years old. Those residents, who are usually asymptomatic, then transmit the virus to their parents who then transmit it to other, older residents, she said.
In Mississippi, about 80% of surveyed coronavirus patients said they had attended a social gathering, including funerals and birthday parties, where people weren’t adhering to social distancing. And in New Jersey, health officials said they have seen multiple outbreaks arising from gatherings of young people.
To stop those infections, states have cracked down on congregate settings — like bars — and pleaded with younger groups to heed guidelines including wearing masks and social distancing.
“Our city like many others across the country are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, and there is clear evidence of community spread — especially indoors in places where groups are gathering,” Mayor Andrew Ginther said in a statement. “We’re also seeing a clear increase among younger people, and we know that bars and nightclubs have been the source of outbreaks locally.”
In Kentucky, the governor also imposed new restrictions on restaurants, shut bars down for the next two weeks and recommended schools postpone in-person instruction until late August.
“It’s time to do the things that we got to do, given the stage that we’re in, to control this virus,” the governor said. “And I know there ended up being questions out there about ‘why didn’t you take this step four weeks ago, or six weeks ago?’ Listen, this virus doesn’t care about our schedules.”
New York and Miami issuing hundreds of coronavirus-related citations
But in Miami and New York, officials have doubled down on enforcement.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday the state had issued at least 132 violations over the weekend to bars and restaurants for not following coronavirus-related regulations. Most of them were in New York City, Cuomo said.
Since the state began reopening, at least 40 establishments have had their liquor licenses suspended as a result of violations and 10 of those suspensions occurred since Friday, the governor said. The lack of compliance with social distancing policies in bars and restaurants among young people is a concern for his administration, Cuomo said.
Meanwhile, in Miami-Dade County — which has reported more cases than all but 12 states — police issued more than 300 citations in 10 days to individuals and businesses who weren’t abiding by the local mask order.
“The growth rate (of cases) has shown flattening since we implemented the masks in public rule and we’re following the advice of our health care professionals and our hospital administrators who are telling us that what we have to do now is focus on enforcement,” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told CNN Sunday. “We created a special task force just for that and we’ve been issuing hundreds of tickets over the course of the week.”
Phase 3 of vaccine trial in US underway
Officials are now using precautions like face masks and social distancing to curb the spread of the virus, but soon the country may have even more help.
Vaccine maker Moderna started its final trial of a coronavirus vaccine in the US Monday, and volunteers from dozens of sites across the country will participate in the study, Fauci said Monday.
“There are 89 sites distributed throughout the country,” Fauci said. “They are widely distributed as a matter of fact in areas where there is clearly as of right now active infection going on.”
There are expected to be 30,000 adult volunteers in the Phase 3 trial. The first patient was dosed at a site in Savannah, Georgia, on Monday.
“I think we are going to get a good sampling of the activity of virus transmission that’s currently going on in the country.”
Fauci said that a vaccine likely won’t be widely available to people in the US until “several months” into 2021.
And this part of the US trial can’t be sped up, a vaccine expert told CNN Monday.
“Typically vaccine development programs take 15 years on average. This vaccine development program is probably going to take a year and a half,” said Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center and professor of pediatrics at the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“The one thing you can’t truncate or coalesce or overlap is the Phase 3 trial,” Offit said. “The proof is in the pudding. The Phase 3 trial’s the pudding and now you’re going to test hopefully 10, 15, 20,000 people that will get this vaccine, 15,000 people that will get placebo and you’ll see to what extent this is really safe and you’ll see to what extent it’s effective.”
CNN’s Shelby Lin Erdman, Elizabeth Cohen, Jacqueline Howard, John Bonifield, Jamie Gumbrecht, Artemis Moshtaghian, Janine Mack and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.
The President has been flailing for days, as a vicious surge in infections races across the sunbelt, caused in part by governors who heeded his calls to open states before the pathogen was suppressed.
With one poll showing him down 20 points to Democratic presumptive nominee Joe Biden on who can best handle the situation, Trump has taken the rare step of performing a partial reversal — on the wearing of masks — though he is still reluctant to model one in public. He also decided that outright denial of the worst public health crisis in 100 years was not working and has returned to the White House briefing room to spin the disaster as best he can.
The anchor of Trump’s new, punchier briefings is a scripted opening in which he cherry picks the most hopeful aspects of a pandemic that has destroyed the rhythm of American daily life and turned the economy upside down.
But in his two briefings so far, his rejigged approach seems more like a cosmetic political exercise than an attempt to provide the country with meaningful public health advice as the pandemic gets worse.
One problem is that he will not appear alongside public health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx.
“They’re briefing me, I’m meeting them. I just spoke to Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx is right outside and they’re giving me all of everything they know as of this point in time and I’m giving the information to you,” Trump said Wednesday.
“I think it’s probably a very concise way of doing it. It seems to be working out very well.”
Trump, however, went on to make misleading statements that would never have been uttered by a public health expert but that he seems to think are politically helpful. He blamed migrants from Mexico crossing the closed border for causing a spike in cases, along with young people attending anti-racism protests.
The President also claimed that kids with strong immune systems don’t bring the coronavirus home and that all schools can open in the fall. He did not provide any scientific evidence for the assertion or explain, for instance, why children who often pick up the flu and colds in class would not be at similar risk for transmitting the coronavirus.
And yet again, Trump claimed falsely that the United States is doing “amazing things” in comparison to other countries as it fights the virus. In fact, the US lags fellow highly industrialized nations in suppressing infection curves and leads the world in infections and deaths.
“The President doesn’t want doctors Fauci or Birx there because they are real time fact checkers,” Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine at George Washington University, told CNN’s Kate Bolduan.
“Without them he can say things which are either misleading or out and out false,” Reiner said, using as an example the President’s misleading interpretation of statistics on a positive rate in testing.
“The truth is the truth and the more the public understands, the better the public will adhere to, you know, prudent policy,” he said.
Trump twists science on school openings
Trump’s approach to managing the virus — that tends to put his own political interests ahead of science-based reasoning — extends to reopening schools, which he wants to do so that the country will look like it’s back to some semblance of normality ahead of the fall election.
But experts disagree with his calls.
“He wants to open the schools, regardless of what the science says. And the science is pretty clear. If you open schools in areas or school districts where there’s a high level of virus transmissions, say if you were going to do this in Houston today or San Antonio or Phoenix, it will fail,” said Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor University.
“It will fail because not only are the kids transmitting the virus but adults, vendors are going in and out of the schools,” Hotez said on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”
“What will happen within two weeks, teachers will start going into the hospitals, going into ICUs. It’ll be bus drivers, cafeteria workers and parents will start getting sick. It’s untenable. It’s not sustainable.”
The President also dwells on the few positive developments amid a grim time as the country battles a virus that has already killed more than 140,000 Americans.
On Wednesday, he touted a new deal with Pfizer to produce and deliver 100 million doses of a vaccine when it becomes available. With an eye on older voters who have cooled on him, according to latest polls, he announced new measures to help nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Still, for once, and despite much of his presentation being highly misleading, the President did not destroy his own strategy with ill discipline.
He largely avoided getting sucked into ill-tempered clashes with reporters and got out of the encounter after only a few questions. So if his return to the podium is a political tactic rather than a genuine effort to change his approach on a virus he has minimized and mismanaged, he may have at least done himself a modicum of good in the eyes of his campaign team.
Trump’s law-and-order pitch to the suburbs
Another prong of the President’s refashioned electoral strategy was on display earlier Wednesday when he announced he would “surge” federal law enforcement agents to Chicago and other cities, despite the opposition of local and state officials.
The plan, another way in which Trump has used his executive power to fulfill personal political goals, solidifies his effort to portray Democrats as weak on crime and to create a picture of a nation under siege from radical, anarchistic elements and staggering under what he says are liberal efforts to destroy policing. The move follows the dispatch of federal officials to Portland, Oregon, who have been seen arresting protesters while wearing camouflage uniforms and without identifying their name and rank. Critics have warned that the President is indulging authoritarian tendencies and hyping a law-and-order crisis to discredit Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
“We’ll work every single day to restore public safety, protect our nation’s children and bring violent perpetrators to justice,” Trump said. “We’ve been doing it and you’ve been seeing what’s happening all around the country.”
“We’ve just started this process and frankly we have no choice but to get involved,” the President said, announcing deployments for the FBI, US Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
From Trump’s point of view, the effort makes political sense. As Democratic mayors and governors balk at his pressure and say they will not accept Trump’s “troops” and “secret police” on their streets, he can accuse them of not taking the safety of Americans seriously. It’s a pitch aimed directly at suburban voters who have peeled away from Republicans since the 2016 election. Trump has repeatedly hit on law-and-order themes, apparently designed to play on fears of White voters, who Trump thinks see others as an enemy that threatens their vision of traditional American culture.
As a Trump campaign press release put it in an email on Wednesday: “Your family won’t be safe in Biden’s America.”
“The way he deals with people based on the color of their skin, their national origin, where they’re from, is absolutely sickening,” Biden said at a virtual town hall hosted by the Service Employees International Union.
“No sitting president has ever done this,” he said. “Never, never, never. No Republican president has done this. No Democratic president. We’ve had racists, and they’ve existed, that tried to get elected president; he’s the first one that has.”
Trump escalates showdown with China
In another example of the way Trump is using presidential power to bolster a campaign theme, the administration on Wednesday announced the shock closure of China’s consulate in Houston, Texas.
The State Department accused Beijing of engaging in massive illegal spying and influence operations for years, but did not say whether there was an individual incident that triggered the move.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been touring Europe seeking to get the support of US allies in a broad front against Beijing.
There is credible evidence to suggest that China has been stealing US intellectual property and has used its espionage services to try to infiltrate US government, military, science and intelligence establishments.
But the new crackdown, which is accelerating a serious deterioration in ties between the established superpower and the rising power, comes as the White House seeks to scapegoat China — the origin of the novel coronavirus — to cover up Trump’s earlier denials that the pandemic would threaten the US.
But just as he cannot control what happens next with the virus, Trump is now vulnerable to however China might react to the closure of its Houston consulate. While bashing Beijing has long been a tactic in presidential campaigns, it’s not clear that all voters will welcome a new epochal clash with a powerful foreign rival — especially one exacerbated for personal political gain.
US attorney requests DHS investigation after video shows masked, camouflaged federal authorities arresting protesters in Portland
The request is aimed specifically at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) personnel who have been captured on various videos arresting protesters and putting them in unmarked SUVs.
Demonstrators in Portland have been protesting racial inequality and police brutality for the last 50 nights, US Attorney Billy J. Williams said in a statement. Federal authorities have protected the Mark O. Hatfield US Courthouse and, at times, interaction between protesters and law enforcement has gotten violent. Last weekend, one protester was seriously injured after the man was shot in the head with impact munition.
Oregon’s governor and Portland’s mayor demanded the troops be withdrawn and a US senator joined them in condemning the arrests.
“Authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters,” tweeted US Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat representing Oregon.
Merkley also tweeted one video of such an arrest showing two masked, camouflaged individuals with generic “police” patches, detain a person dressed in a black outfit and place them in an unmarked van before driving away.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admitted to being one of the agencies involved in arresting protesters.
“Violent anarchists have organized events in Portland over the last several weeks with willful intent to damage and destroy federal property, as well as, injure federal officers and agents,” the agency said in a statement to CNN. “These criminal actions will not be tolerated.”
The statement said CBP agents suspected the individual seen in the video Merkley re-tweeted of “assaults against federal agents or destruction of federal property,” and that they moved the individual to a safer location for questioning after they saw “a large and violent mob move towards” them. CNN could not independently verify what happened before or after the video was recorded.
CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan tweeted the agency will continue to arrest “violent criminals that are destroying federal property.” He also said CBP personnel are clearly marked as federal officers and have unique identifiers.
“You will not see names on their uniforms b/c these same violent criminals use this information to target them & their families, putting both at risk. As Acting Commissioner, I will not let that happen!” Morgan tweeted.
Portland Mayor Tim Wheeler demanded Friday that President Donald Trump send the federal officers home.
“This is not the America we want. This is not the Portland we want,” Wheeler said at a news conference. “We’re demanding that the President remove these additional troops that he sent to our city. It is not helping to contain or de-escalate the situation it’s obviously having exactly the opposite impact.
Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, who visited the city Thursday, defended the actions of his officers, saying in a tweet, “DHS officers were assaulted with lasers and frozen water bottles from violent criminals attempting to tear down federal property. 2 officers were injured.”
“Our men and women in uniform are patriots,” he said in another tweet that featured uniformed officers who looked to be similar to the ones shown in the video from earlier in the week.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, described the arrests as “a blatant abuse of power by the federal government” in a tweet Thursday.
Brown tweeted she told Wolf “that the federal government should remove all federal officers from our streets.”
“His response showed me he is on a mission to provoke confrontation for political purposes,” she tweeted. “He is putting both Oregonians and local law enforcement officers in harm’s way.”
ACLU files lawsuit against DHS
Mark Pettibone, a 29-year-old Portland resident, told CNN he was taken by unknown federal agents Wednesday.
“I was kidnapped off the street in my own city for non-violently protesting and showing up in solidarity,” Pettibone said. “About four people just out of the van that pulled up in front of me, and my first reaction was I tried to get away.”
Pettibone said he was held for about two hours and plans to talk to the National Lawyers Guild, but will follow up with the ACLU.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon sued DHS Friday over the arrests.
The ACLU says DHS agents “have been deployed over the widespread objections of local leaders and community members, have been indiscriminately using tear gas, rubber bullets, and acoustic weapons against protesters, journalists, and legal observers.”
“This is a fight to save our democracy,” said Kelly Simon, interim legal director with the ACLU of Oregon.
“Usually when we see people in unmarked cars forcibly grab someone off the street we call it kidnapping — what is happening now in Portland should concern everyone in the US,” the ACLU’s tweet read. “These actions are flat-out unconstitutional and will not go unanswered.”
CNN’s Geneva Sands contributed to this report.
In a statement Saturday, a White House official told CNN that “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things.” The official went on to provide a lengthy list of examples, citing Fauci’s comments early in the pandemic and linking to past interviews.
These bullet points, which resembled opposition research on a political opponent, included Fauci downplaying the virus early on and a quote from March when Fauci said, “People should not be walking around with masks,” among other comments.
The move by the White House comes as President Donald Trump and Fauci are not speaking. The tension between the two men has grown publicly as the two have responded to one another through interviews and statements.
Fauci did not return a request for comment by CNN.
“As a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don’t think you can say we’re doing great. I mean, we’re just not,” Fauci said in one interview. In another, Fauci responded to the President’s claim that “99%” of coronavirus cases in the United States were “totally harmless,” saying he didn’t know where the President got the number, and suggesting Trump’s interpretation was “obviously not the case.”
Trump has taken to publicly criticizing Fauci on national television.
“Dr. Fauci is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes,” Trump said last week, undermining the public health expert whom Americans say in polls they trust more than the President.
In recent interviews, he openly questioned the advice he’d received from Fauci at the start of the outbreak.
“I think we are in a good place. I disagree with him,” Trump said in an interview Tuesday when questioned about Fauci’s assertion the US is still “knee-deep in the first wave” of the pandemic.
One senior administration official told CNN that some officials within the White House do not trust Fauci. According to the source, those officials think Fauci doesn’t have the best interest of the President, pointing to interviews where he openly disagrees with what Trump has said.
Other administration officials have told CNN that while they have disagreements with Fauci’s methods, they don’t doubt his motives, and that his only concern was public health.
“We need people more than ever to speak truth to power, to be able to level with the American people about what we’re facing with this pandemic, how to get it under control, how to protect ourselves and our families,” Schiff continued. “That’s what Dr. Fauci has been trying to do and by sidelining him the President is once again interfering with an effective response to this pandemic.”
Kathleen Sebelius, who served as secretary of Health and Human Services under former President Barack Obama, told CNN efforts to discredit Fauci and other scientists are “potentially very, very dangerous” as the US and other countries work toward a coronavirus vaccine.
“I think people want to know from the scientists that the vaccine is safe, that it is effective, that it will not do more harm than good,” she told Blitzer on “The Situation Room.”
“And if the public scientists have been discredited, if the President says ‘don’t believe them, you can’t listen to them, they’re often wrong,’ we have then undermined a national vaccination campaign which is an essential step to bringing this horrible period to an end.”
In response to questions about the White House appearing to actively discredit Fauci, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at Health and Human Services, Michael Caputo, said there was no White House-versus-the scientists narrative, and provided a statement.
“We have great faith in the capacity of all of our scientists and doctors on the coronavirus taskforce to impart necessary public health information. People like Admiral (Brett) Giroir, Surgeon General (Jerome) Adams and others are carrying these messages very effectively,” Caputo said in the statement, although he did not directly answer questions about Fauci.
This story has been updated with comments from Rep. Adam Schiff and Kathleen Sebelius.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Paul LeBlanc contributed to this story.
Dr. Benedetta Alleganzi, WHO Technical Lead for Infection Prevention and Control, said during a briefing Tuesday, that the agency has discussed and collaborated with many of the scientists who signed the letter.
Infectious disease epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkove, with WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said many of the letter’s signatories are engineers, “which adds to growing knowledge about the importance of ventilation, which we feel is very important.”
“We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of Covid-19, as well as droplet. We’ve looked at fomites. We’ve looked at fecal oral. We’ve looked at mother to child. We’ve looked at animal to human, of course as well,” Van Kerkove said.
She said the agency is working on a scientific brief summarizing the current knowledge around transmission of the deadly virus, which should be available in the coming weeks.
Alleganzi emphasized more research is still needed on Covid-19 transmission.
“So, these are fields of research that are really growing and for which there is some evidence emerging but is not definitive,” she said.
“And therefore, the possibility of airborne transmission in public settings, especially in very specific conditions crowded, closed, poorly ventilated settings that have been described cannot be ruled out. However, the evidence needs to be gathered and interpreted.”
“It is now the dominant form infecting people,” Erica Ollmann Saphire of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology and the Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium, who worked on the study, told CNN.
Now the team has not only checked more genetic sequences, but they have also run experiments involving people, animals and cells in lab dishes that show the mutated version is more common and that it’s more infectious than other versions.
“We do know that the new virus is fitter. It doesn’t look at first glance as if it is worse,” Saphire said.
The mutation affects the spike protein — the structure the virus uses to get into the cells it infects. Now the researchers are checking to see whether this affects whether the virus can be controlled by a vaccine. Current vaccines being tested mostly target the spike protein, but they were made using older strains of the virus.
The study, published in the journal Cell, confirms earlier work suggesting the mutation had made the new variant of virus more common. The researchers call the new mutation G614, and they show that it has almost completely replaced the first version to spread in Europe and the US, one called D614.
No effect on patient survival
“Our global tracking data show that the G614 variant in Spike has spread faster than D614,” theoretical biologist Bette Korber of Los Alamos National Laboratory and colleagues wrote in their report. “We interpret this to mean that the virus is likely to be more infectious,” they added. “Interestingly, we did not find evidence of G614 impact on disease severity.”
This could be good news, said Lawrence Young, a professor of medical oncology at the UK’s University of Warwick, who was not involved in the study.
“The current work suggests that while the G614 variant may be more infectious, it is not more pathogenic. There is a hope that as SARS-CoV-2 infection spreads, the virus might become less pathogenic,” he said in a statement.
The team tested samples taken from patients across Europe and the US and sequenced the genomes. They compared these genome sequences to what’s been shared publicly. Comparing these sequences helped them draw a map of the spread of the two forms.
“Through March 1, 2020, the G614 variant was rare outside of Europe, but the end of March it had increased in frequency worldwide,” they wrote.
Even when the D614 form had caused widespread epidemics, in places such as Wales and Nottingham in England, as well as in Washington state, G614 took over once it appeared, they found.
“The increase in G614 frequency often continues well after stay-at-home orders are in place and past the subsequent two-week incubation period,” they added. There are a few exceptions, including the Santa Clara, California, area and Iceland, where the older, D614 form was never replaced by the newer, G variant.
Three to nine times more infectious
The new version seems to multiply faster in the upper respiratory tract — the nose, sinuses and throat — which would explain why it passes around more easily, the researchers said.
But tests on 1,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients in Britain showed those infected with the new version did not fare any worse than those who caught the original strain.
David Montefiore of Duke University and colleagues tested the virus in the lab. “We were able to test whether the G form of the virus was more infectious than the D form,” Montefiore, director of the Laboratory for AIDS Vaccine Research and Development, told CNN.
“All the results agreed that the G form was three to nine times more infectious than the D form,” he added. “We now had experimental evidence that supported, in part, what Bette was seeing in her analysis of the sequences across the globe — the G form had a fitness advantage in terms of infectivity.”
The lab tests of the virus in action confirmed what the genetic maps had shown.
“These findings suggest that the newer form of the virus may be even more readily transmitted than the original form. Whether or not that conclusion is ultimately confirmed, it highlights the value of what were already good ideas: to wear masks and to maintain social distancing,” Korber said in a statement.
Other mutations often go along with the G614 mutation, but it’s not clear what effect they have. “The earliest sequence we detected that carried all four mutations was sampled in Italy on Feb. 20,” they wrote. “Within days, this haplotype was sampled in many countries in Europe.”
The G614 mutation can be neutralized by convalescent serum — the blood product taken from people who have recovered from a coronavirus infection, Saphire said. Her team tested blood donated by six coronavirus survivors in San Diego.
“We looked to see whether the range of antibodies in the blood of the people was just as effective at neutralizing the new virus as the old virus and it was. It was, in fact, a little better,” she said.
“That was a relief.”
The researchers had worried that if the new mutation made the virus grow faster and to higher levels, it would take more immune system effort to neutralize it. “In these six San Diegans, that wasn’t the case,” Saphire said.
More work is needed, of course, to solidify the findings and to see what the changes mean for the epidemic and for patients, the researchers said.
“There are potential consequences for the vaccines. We are actively investigating those possible consequences,” Montefiore said.
And, of course, they’re keeping an eye out for other mutations. “We might have dodged a bullet with this particular mutation, Saphire said. “However, that is not to say that another mutation couldn’t come on top of this one,” she added.
“It would behoove us to remain vigilant.”
The media’s coverage of these developments has also been at “breakneck speed” — because finding any way to stall the spread of this disease is so imperative. For example, several scientists recently called me both on and off the record to relay their optimism that a vaccine could be available by the beginning of next year. It would be a remarkably fast process, given that vaccine development is typically measured in years or decades, not months. So this past week, I took a step back to dig deeper into the studies and look into the source of this optimism. I was surprised at how thin the available data actually is in peer-reviewed medical journals.
There is no question that in this environment, speed is of the essence. Scientists are scrambling to learn about the virus, the disease and how to keep people from dying. Health officials are working hard to put sound public health measures in place that don’t overburden society or shut down the economy. And journalists are running ragged trying to cover it all.
But there are also growing concerns — on the part of scientists and journalists — that the studies being offered up and showcased are not ready for “prime time.” In fact, many are not studies at all, but subjective conclusions based on data, and methods that remain hidden and thus difficult to validate. Never before has full and immediate transparency been so important, and never before has the scientific picture around Covid-19 been so opaque.
What difference does the source make?
Press releases, pre-print papers and published papers all serve different purposes, and carry different weight for both scientists and journalists.
A study published in a credible scientific journal is — in theory — the final, complete version. To get published here, a study has to undergo a process called peer review. Kate Grabowski, an assistant professor in the department of pathology at Johns Hopkins University, calls the peer-review process “multiple, independent sets of eyes” on a paper. While peer review is by no means fool-proof, it typically reflects the expertise of many people in a particular field who don’t necessarily have a “dog in the race.”
“I think it’s just so valuable to picking up potential errors that are largely unintentional, and also just making the science better. Usually when we submit papers, they’re like rough drafts, and then may get refined [several times] until they’re much better,” Grabowski said. She described the process, to us, as “iterative.”
But the past few months have highlighted that the road to solid science can be full of potholes, speed bumps, blind spots and hairpin turns. If you are not careful, sometimes that road can lead you straight off a cliff.
Here are several recent examples of the story getting ahead of the science:
In fact, when it comes to the vaccine race, despite all the talk you may have heard from Moderna or Oxford University or “Operation Warp Speed,” or having billions of doses by the end of the year, remember: We’ve only seen that one study published in The Lancet. That’s it. We need to remember to temper our hopes and enthusiasm with the facts we have.
I include these examples because they show how different parts of the process can break down.
“Trying to do science by press release, without backing it up, either with a traditional journal or a preprint … has universally led to misunderstanding and has no place in science. The biotechs are doing it because they’re writing for their shareholders, they’re writing for their investors, but it’s being done in a way that’s oblivious to its public health impact and needs to stop,” Hotez said.
Whiplash for consumers of health news
When this happens — and especially when errors are revealed or papers are retracted — public trust is eroded and people begin to doubt science.
“It’s like whiplash,” Oransky said. “I’d be really confused.”
But nowadays that whiplash has become almost inevitable because that back and forth is how science moves forward in this Covid way of life.
Adding to the whiplash and confusion is just the sheer number of studies coming out. According to Grabowski, who based her estimate on the NIH’s iSearch COVID-19 Portfolio, approximately 35,000 articles have been amassed to date on the topic — and they keep coming.
To get a handle on all of them, Grabowski heads up a team of about 50 Johns Hopkins University researchers at the Novel Coronavirus Research Compendium, which curates and reviews emerging research. She estimates they screen between 1,500 and 2,000 articles per week, and have looked at more than 10,000 of them total. As you might expect, some are garbage and some are gems.
“I would say there’s definitely some excellent studies that are being conducted under a really rapid timeframe,” Grabowski said. “It’s really amazing to see science moving at this pace. I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this before.”
Buyer and seller beware
All the experts said it is great news that so much research is being done, despite the fact that so much of the work is emerging through press releases and pre-prints.
“The fact that scientists are getting work out there earlier so that other scientists can pore over it and we can maybe learn things more quickly — that’s a good thing,” Oransky said. “The fact that we’re treating it all equally as if it’s all been … subject to the same level of scrutiny — that’s the problem.”
Schwitzer cautions journalists and those who disseminate information to take the time to do it right. “Just reminding people to slow down. So much of what we’re doing, reporting breathlessly at breakneck speed, doesn’t need to be reported restlessly at breakneck speed,” he said, adding, “Words matter and the data matter.”
So, what does this all mean for you? “I think that someone reading, viewing, watching, listening should never make any decisions based on a single report they read, whether it’s a study or a news report on a study,” Oransky said. “Particularly if that news report doesn’t put into context everything that’s come before and doesn’t explain what we still don’t know.”
CNN’s Andrea Kane and Nadia Kounang contributed to this report.
The test results cast Trump’s risky decision to go ahead with an indoor rally that doctors fear turned into a super-spreader infectious event in an even worse light. They also show how the virus — now marching through southern and western states despite Trump’s insistence that the US has already “prevailed” in the fight — is having a disastrous impact on the “Great American Comeback” narrative at the heart of his reelection bid.
Trump, who described his remark as “semi-tongue in cheek,” continued to argue that the problem in the United States is not that the virus is so widespread, but that testing keeps discovering how deeply it has penetrated in the community.
“Instead of 25 million tests, let’s say we did 10 million tests, we’d look like we were doing much better because we’d have far fewer cases. You understand that. I wouldn’t do that, but I will say this: ee do so much more than other countries it makes us in a way look bad but actually we’re doing the right thing,” Trump said.
The comments seem to set off yet another new political storm that will further complicate attempts by the President’s campaign team to rebound after Saturday’s embarrassment. The campaign team is now considering smaller venues for Trump events — a move that would surely bruise the commander in chief’s ego, or outdoor locations where supporters might feel more comfortable.
Limits on campaigning would be intolerable for any President seeking reelection. For Trump, such a crimping of his style would be even worse, given the centrality of his big rallies to his political id and the morale boosting role they fulfill for a president who is an outsider in Washington.
A strong base
And Fox News said that Trump’s return to the trail secured its biggest Saturday night television audience in its history, suggesting that while some Trump fans might have been concerned about the virus, their absence from Tulsa was not down to diminished enthusiasm.
Trump has always defied political gravity — and the effect of months of stay-at-home orders and lockdowns makes it even more difficult than usual for political analysts to get a solid assessment on how much of the country now views the President.
Saturday night’s event was meant to send a signal that the worst of the danger from the pandemic has expired and that America is on the comeback trail. Instead, it suggested that even Trump’s supporters who elected not to show up in an indoor event that brought the risk of infection, may not yet believe the core message of their hero’s campaign.
With every chance that thousands more Americans die before Election Day, Trump must face the prospect that his denial and mismanagement of the pandemic that left the country ill prepared for a deadly public health crisis is becoming a millstone that his campaign may never be able to shake off.
The President’s response to a miserable 48 hours was typical — an all-out attack. His targeting of Biden and the Democrats, demonstrating his ferocious tenacity in a way that also hinted at concern in his inner circle.
The President’s team followed up with a new offensive against Biden’s health and mental faculties. They claimed that the former vice president’s decision to stick to convention and only sign up for the three official presidential debates in the fall — and not the extra encounters Trump is demanding — shows the former vice president has trepidation about taking on the President. The tactic was a return to the effort to define Biden as unfit to serve as President — that does not appear to be working, if battleground state polls are anything to go on.
On Tuesday, Trump will head to Arizona to tour a section of his border wall that was so fundamental to his appeal to conservative base supporters in his first presidential election campaign.
While the President is out of town, two of his top public health officials, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield and the government’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, will testify before a House committee on the increasingly grave situation in many states.
Trump will attempt to put the embarrassing scenes of Saturday night behind him when he addresses a “Students for Trump” event in Arizona.
Attendees have been told to bring face masks to the event but will not be forced to wear them.
Democrats are already seeking to exploit Trump’s remark about slowing testing in Oklahoma, portraying it as emblematic of a mismanaged effort to tackle a virus that caused a shutdown of the economy.
“Two nights ago in his diatribe, he told them to stop testing because the numbers were going up … I mean, my God,” Biden told a fundraising event, according to a pool report on Monday.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins contributed to this report.
Bolton also says that it’s hard for him to think of a single decision Trump made during his stint at the White House “that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations.”
Trump had no problem with China’s concentration camps
Bolton describes several instances where Trump waffles on China-related issues after conversations with Xi, notably on the mass concentration camps Beijing was using to imprison and “re-educate” Uyghur Muslims. Bolton writes that according to the US interpreter in the room during a conversation between Xi and Trump at the G-20 meeting in June 2019, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was “exactly the right thing to do.”
Bolton adds that Trump didn’t want to sanction China for their crackdown on the Muslim minority because of ongoing trade negotiations. “Religious repression in China was also not on Trump’s agenda; whether it was the Catholic Church or Falun Gong, it didn’t register,” Bolton writes.
Pompeo, famously loyal to the President, may have trash-talked him
Bolton describes a meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un in which the North Korean despot blamed troubled relations between his country and the US on the actions of prior administrations. Emphasizing the meetings he and Trump had held, Kim told the President that they could dispel mistrust and work quickly toward a nuclear agreement. After Trump told Kim that he would seek Senate ratification of any agreement with North Korea, Bolton writes that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo passed him a notepad. On it was scribbled the message, “he is so full of shit.”
“I agreed,” Bolton writes, going on to note that Kim promised no further nuclear tests. The State Department has not responded to CNN’s request for comment about Pompeo’s alleged note.
Trump offered to help Turkey’s leader avoid a Justice Department probe
Bolton writes that in December 2018, Trump offered to help Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with a Justice Department investigation into a Turkish bank with ties to Erdogan that was suspected of violating US Iran sanctions. When the Turkish leader presented Trump with a memo from the law firm representing Halkbank, Trump flipped through it and then declared he believed the bank was totally innocent of violating US sanctions related to Iran.
Trump told Erdogan he would “take care of things,” and explained that the Southern District prosecutors “were not his people, but were Obama people,” and the problem would be fixed when they were replaced by his people.
Bolton notes that “this was all nonsense” because the Justice Department prosecutors were career employees who would have taken the same path with the Halkbank probe regardless of who was president.
The Israeli prime minister didn’t understand why Kushner led on Middle East peace
Before joining Trump’s White House, Bolton says he had a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who questioned Jared Kushner’s role in developing a Middle East peace plan.
Netanyahu “was dubious about assigning the task of bringing an end to the Israel-Palestinian conflict to Kushner, whose family Netanyahu had known for many years. He was enough of a politician not to oppose the idea publicly, but like much of the world, he wondered why Kushner thought he would succeed where the likes of Kissinger had failed.”
The White House decision-making process was like a ‘food fight’
Bolton says the weekly meetings to discuss issues, chaired by Trump in the Roosevelt Room or the Oval Office, more closely resembled college food fights than careful decision-making, with no lower-level effort or involvement by the relevant agencies to sort out the issues and the options. “After these sessions, had I believed in yoga, I probably could have used some,” Bolton wrote.
It’s a theme Bolton returns to more than once, describing a mercurial President who has little interest in learning how the federal government worked. Instead, he describes Trump as very focused on how decisions will play in the media.
Trump didn’t like sanctions on Russia
Bolton claims that Trump privately complained about sanctions and other punitive measures imposed on Russia with “extended grumbling and complaining,” even as he touted them in public.
After the US announced a first round of sanctions on Russia for poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK, Bolton said Trump wanted to rescind the penalties and thought they were being too tough on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Trump told Pompeo to call Lavrov and say ‘some bureaucrat’ had published the sanctions — a call that may or may not have ever taken place,” Bolton wrote.
Bolton also claimed Trump stopped the issue of a statement criticizing Russia on the tenth anniversary of its invasion of Georgia. The former national security adviser writes that these actions were a reflection of Trump’s “difficulty in separating personal from official relations.”
Trump’s revealing questions: Is Finland a part of Russia?
Before the summit with Putin in Helsinki, Trump asked his advisers if Finland was a part of Russia, or whether it was a “kind of satellite of Russia.”
On his way to the Helsinki meeting, Trump stopped to see then-British Prime Minister Theresa May in the UK. During that meeting, May’s national security adviser, speaking about the Skripal poisoning, referred to the attack as one on a nuclear power. “Trump asked, ‘oh, are you a nuclear power?,’ which I knew was not intended as a joke,” Bolton wrote.
And on multiple occasions, Bolton said Trump repeatedly mixed up Afghan President Ashraf Ghani with former President Hamid Karzai.
Trump told people that Venezuela is ‘really part of the US’ and wanted to invade
Bolton writes that in discussions about toppling the regime of Nicolas Maduro, Trump “insisted on military options for Venezuela,” telling advisers that the country “is really part of the United States.” During a March 2019 meeting at the Pentagon, Trump grilled military leaders about why the US was in Afghanistan and Iraq, but not in Venezuela.
Trump’s repeated insistence that military options be considered to oust Maduro often shocked aides, lawmakers and advisers, Bolton writes. In a meeting with Florida Republicans, “Trump still wanted a military option,” leaving Sen. Rick Scott and Gov. Ron Desantis “plainly stunned,” while Sen. Marco Rubio, who had heard Trump on the subject before “knew how to deflect it politely.”
Trump wanted Attorney General Bill Barr to make CNN reporters ‘serve time in jail’
When news leaked about a hush-hush meeting on Afghanistan at Trump’s Bedminster resort, Trump complained that CNN had reported the summit was taking place, Bolton writes. The President told White House counsel Pat Cipollone to call Attorney General Bill Barr about his desire to “arrest the reporters, force them to serve time in jail, and then demand they disclose their sources.”
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler, Jeremy Herb, Nikki Carvajal, Kevin Liptak, Holmes Lybrand, Zachary Cohen, Sarah Westwood, Maegan Vazquez, Jamie Crawford, Michael Conte and Marshall Cohen contributed to this report