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Fauci: Coronavirus task force to examine aerosolized spread

The White House coronavirus task force will examine more closely just how much SARS-CoV-2 might be transmitted via aerosols, and not just from droplets, NIAID director Anthony Fauci said Wednesday at an online forum sponsored by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Why it matters: The longer the coronavirus can remain infectiousin the air, the more likely it caninfect people, particularly indoors — leading to the possible need to alter air filtration and circulation within buildings.


Where it stands: The traditional theory, Fauci said, is "if you have a particle that's greater than five micrometers, it's likely going to fall down. If you have one that's less than five micrometers, then you can get an aerosol [of it] floating."

  • However, Fauci said virus particle specialists reached out to him to say "you really better take a bigger look at this, because from what we know about particle physics and airflows, there may be droplets that may be much larger than five micrometers that continue to go around."
  • Fauci said that to him, "it gives you a greater reason to wear your mask at all times. But, it also tells you that outdoors will likely be much better than indoors."
  • "When you are indoors, you've really got to look at what the circulation is and should you be doing things like filtering with HEPA filters. These are things that are unknown now, but that is something we are going to address."

What's next: Fauci says the coronavirus task force will take a closer look at whether or not the virus is aerosolized and already is reaching out to the few Biosafety Level 3 facilities that can test both aerosolization and transmission of infection.

What to watch: Immunity afforded by T-cells, rather than antibodies, is another topic the coronavirus task force will focus upon, Fauci told forum moderator Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and chief medical correspondent for CNN.

  • Gupta pointed out research published Tuesday in Science showing evidence of T-cells in blood samples taken in 2015–2018 — before the pandemic — reacting with SARS-CoV-2. That finding supports prior studies that found some T-cell reactivity to SARS-CoV-2 despite no known exposure to the virus.
  • People who have been exposed to other coronaviruses (like the common cold) likely develop antibodies that diminish over time. However, the T-cell part of the immune system response has longer term memory and could have some cross-reactivity with this new coronavirus, Fauci said. More research is needed to determine this, he added.
  • "[I]t could explain why some people — particularly children who might be closer to the response of the common cold virus — why they may not be getting ill," Fauci said.

Justice Department drops lawsuit against John Bolton over Trump book

The Justice Department on Wednesday dropped its lawsuit against President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton over the publication of his tell-all book, “The Room Where it Happened.”

Why it matters: The move comes a year after the Trump administration sued Bolton in federal court, claiming he breached his contract by failing to complete a pre-publication review for classified information.

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Fed may raise rates sooner, as inflation is higher than expected

The Federal Reserve kept rates unchanged at its latest policy meeting,but a shift in sentiment emerged as to how soon it should begin raising rates.

Why it matters: The Fed's rock bottom rates policy and monthly asset purchases helped the U.S. markets avoid a meltdown during the COVID crisis last year. But as the economy recovers, a chorus is growing for the Fed to at least consider a timeline for pulling back its support before things get overheated.

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Naftali Bennett: How Israel's new PM plans to handle relations with Biden

New Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is signaling he intends to move cautiously at first on issues like Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an approach that will suit the Biden administration just fine.

Why it matters: Bennett is aiming to avoid an early confrontation with the U.S., and his fragile and ideologically diverse government will have a hard time taking any groundbreaking steps on foreign policy in the first place.

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Biden: Consequences for Russia would be "devastating" if opposition leader Navalny dies

President Biden said he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin during Wednesday's summit that if jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies in prison, the consequences "would be devastating for Russia."

Why it matters: Although the White House had previously warned the Russian government over Navalny's imprisonment, Biden personally delivered the message to Putin on Wednesday.

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Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy will support Juneteenth bill

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy will support a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday when it comes to the floor later Wednesday, his office tells Axios.

Why it matters: The House is slated to pass a bill making June 19 — Juneteenth — a federal holiday that memorializes when the last enslaved people in Texas learned about their freedom under the Emancipation Proclamation.

  • It will then go to President Biden for his signature just days before the occasion and one day after the Senate passed the bill unanimously.

Biden says he raised human rights issues in Putin summit

President Biden said he raised issues including nuclear arms control, cybersecurity, election interference and violations of human rights in Russia in his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Tuesday.

What he's saying: "My agenda is not against Russia or anybody else. It's for the American people," Biden said at a press conference following the summit, which was shorter than expected.

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Putin calls talks with Biden "constructive," says ambassadors will return to posts

Russian President Vladimir Putin of Russia said Wednesday that his summit with President Biden was "constructive," and that the countries had agreed their ambassadors would imminently return to their posts in Moscow and Washington.

What he's saying: "Many of our joint positions are divergent but nevertheless I think both sides manifested a determination to try and understand each other and try and converge our positions," Putin told reporters at a press conference immediately following the meetings.

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Southwest heat wave intensifies, 40 million likely to see 100-degree temperatures

A punishing and long-enduring heat wave is intensifying in parts of the West and Southwest, with heat warnings and advisories in effect across seven states Wednesday. The heat will not relent until late in the weekend.

Threat level: In the coming days, 40 million are likely to see temperatures reach or exceed 100 degrees.

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