As the world races to find a vaccine and a treatment for COVID-19, there is seemingly no antidote in sight for the burgeoning outbreak of coronavirus conspiracy theories, hoaxes, anti-mask myths and sham cures.
The phenomenon, unfolding largely on social media, escalated this week when President Donald Trump retweeted a false video about an anti-malaria drug being a cure for the virus and it was revealed that Russian intelligence is spreading disinformation about the crisis through English-language websites.
Experts worry the torrent of bad information is dangerously undermining efforts to slow the virus, whose death toll in the U.S. hit 150,000 Wednesday, by far the highest in the world, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Over a half-million people have died in the rest of the world.
Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert tested positive on Wednesday for the coronavirus, forcing him to abruptly cancel his plan to travel to his home state with Trump. The Republican immediately faced criticism from colleagues for shunning masks on Capitol Hill, where face coverings are not mandatory and testing is sparse.
The 66-year-old Gohmert, one of the House’s most conservative and outspoken members, told a Texas news station that he tested positive at the White House and planned to self-quarantine. He is at least the 10th member of Congress known to have tested positive for the coronavirus.
In other developments:
- Trump on Wednesday dismissed Democratic demands to include aid for cash-strapped cities in a new coronavirus relief package and he lashed out at Republicans, saying they should “go back to school” if they reject money for a new FBI headquarters in the nation's capital.
- Vice President Mike Pence vowed that schools around the country will have the resources they need to reopen for in-person learning as he visited a classroom of masked fourth graders at a North Carolina private school.
- Big gaps in federal oversight of long-term care facilities for aging veterans may have contributed to rampant coronavirus infections and more than 200 deaths at state-run homes, according to a congressional watchdog agency.
- The Federal Reserve expressed concern that the persistent viral outbreak will act as a drag on the economy and hiring in the coming months and said it plans to keep its benchmark short-term interest rate pegged near zero to help provide support.
- Having endured what was surely a record-shattering slump last quarter, the U.S. economy faces a dim outlook as a resurgent coronavirus intensifies doubts about any sustained recovery the rest of the year. On Thursday, the government will issue its first of three estimates of economic activity, as measured by the gross domestic product, for the April-June quarter.
- U.S. energy consumption plummeted to its lowest level in more than 30 years this spring as the nation’s economy largely shut down because of the coronavirus, federal officials reported. The drop was driven by less demand for coal that is burned for electricity and oil that’s refined into gasoline and jet fuel, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.
- The NBA, at long last, is officially back. A re-opening night doubleheader inside the bubble at Walt Disney World awaits Thursday, when New Orleans takes on Utah before a matchup of the top two teams in the Western Conference — the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. The NBA was the first sports league to suspend its season because of the pandemic in March.
- The Atlantic Coast Conference announced plans Wednesday to stage 11 football games for each school with a schedule that will include Notre Dame, which is temporarily giving up its storied independence in a year rocked by the coronavirus pandemic.