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COVID-19 restrictions may have played a role in San Francisco firefighter’s death

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCT. 7: Family and friends of deceased SF firefighter and paramedic Jason Cortez head to SFFD vehicles for a procession to Medical Examiner's office from SF General Hospital in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, October 7, 2020. Cortez died Wednesday morning during a training exercise. (Scott Strazzante/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)
Family and friends of deceased firefighter and paramedic Jason Cortez prepare for a procession from San Francisco General Hospital. (Scott Strazzante / San Francisco Chronicle)

The San Francisco Fire Department has revealed the circumstances leading to the death of a firefighter during a training exercise last week, noting that restrictions implemented to stem the spread of the coronavirus might have played a role.

Jason Cortez, 42, was knocked off a third-floor fire escape Wednesday by an inadvertent water blast, the report said. He was alone on the fire escape of a training facility at 19th and Folsom streets when he opened the gate of a hose adapter that did not have a hose lined attached, and the stream of water struck him in the chest and pushed him backward.

Although accidental in nature, Cortez’s death could be linked to COVID-19 restrictions, according to the report. His engine company, Station No. 3, was conducting a solo training exercise that typically requires multiple firefighters from two stations.

“Because of COVID 19 concerns, multi-company drills are suspended,” the report said. Engine 3 “was forced to conduct a pump operation drill alone. … Each [firefighter] was required to carry out tasks individually which are normally done as part of a team.”

San Francisco Fire Department firefighter paramedic Jason Cortez.
San Francisco Fire Department firefighter paramedic Jason Cortez. (San Francisco Fire Department )

The San Francisco Fire Department was one of the first in the nation to implement aggressive COVID-19 guidelines in accordance with recommendations from doctors, hazardous-industry specialists and epidemiologists, according to spokesman Lt. Jonathan Baxter. The social distancing measures are meant to ensure the safety of fire crews and the communities they serve.

“We don’t want to cross-pollinate those crews unless we absolutely have to,” Baxter said. “Cross-pollination does occur during actual emergencies, but those are uncontrolled. When we have controlled sessions, such as a training session, we try to limit the exposure as much as possible.”

Baxter said it was likely that those guidelines would be reevaluated in light of Cortez’s death, but he said training and community safety must remain top priorities.

“We can’t put training on hold during COVID-19 because emergencies aren’t going to go on hold,” he said. “We have to be prepared, especially when we have so many new and young firefighters that need to be trained and tested on skill sets. … But one fatality, one injury, is one too many.”

Cortez was a father of two and the son of a retired San Francisco firefighter. He was treated for critical injuries at the scene and transported to San Francisco General Hospital shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday. He died from his injuries less than an hour later.

Station No. 3, in the Tenderloin neighborhood, is regularly ranked one of the busiest in the country, often with up to 40 calls during a 24-hour shift.

“If you looked at Jason at 3 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning, he had a positive attitude, smile on his face, excellent customer service,” Baxter said.

55 More COVID-19 Cases In New Hampshire; Another Death: Update

CONCORD, NH — Fifty-five more New Hampshire residents have tested positive for COVID-19, according to state health officials.

Fourteen of the new positive tests were children and 30 of them were female. Sixteen reside in Rockingham County, 11 live in Hillsborough County outside of Manchester and Nashua, five live in Merrimack, and three live in Nashua. The state is still investigating the residency of three cases.

A few more than 6,900 specimens were collected Saturday with a little more than 1,100 tests pending. The state said 0.8 percent of the polymerase chain reaction tests were positive. Sunday’s positive tests were a mix of both PCR and antigen tests. More than 293,000 New Hampshire residents about 19.5 percent of all residents have been tested. The state has administered nearly 498,000 PCR tests.

Accumulatively, 9,143 people have contracted the coronavirus while 8,002 or 88 percent have recovered.

Two of the Granite Staters who have tested positive required hospitalization while 22 are currently hospitalized. All of the new positive cases have identified risk factors — meaning they were in close contact with a confirmed case or associated with an outbreak setting.

Another elderly resident of Hillsborough County has also died, according to health officials. He lived in a long-term care setting and was between 70 and 79 years of age.

Approximately 3,300 Granite Staters are under public health monitoring.

A few new cases were connected to K-12 school settings in the state.

The Tabernacle Christian School in Hudson has reported its first case. The Riddle Brook Elementary School in Bedford now has its third active cases. The Ellis Elementary School in Fremont also reported its first infection.

There are 53 active cases of COVID-19 in K-12 schools in New Hampshire.

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Stop The Spread Of COVID-19

The COVID-19 virus is spread through respiratory droplets, usually through coughing and sneezing, and exposure to others who are sick or might be showing symptoms.

Health officials emphasize residents should follow these recommendations:

  • Avoid any domestic and international travel, especially on public transportation such as buses, trains, and airplanes.

  • Practice social distancing. Stay at least 6 feet from other people, including distancing while in waiting areas or lines.

  • When you can’t practice 6 feet of social distancing, wear a face covering.

  • Anyone who is told to self-quarantine and stay at home due to exposure to a person with confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 needs to stay home and not go out into public places.

  • If you are 60 years or older or have chronic and underlying health conditions, you need to stay home and not go out.

  • Avoid gatherings of 10 people or more.

  • Employers should work from home as much as possible.

  • There is increasing evidence that the virus can survive for hours or possibly days on surfaces. People should clean frequently touched surfaces, including door handles, grocery carts and grocery basket handles, etc.

Take the same precautions as you would if you were sick:

  • Stay home and avoid public places.

  • Wear

Gottlieb predicts “a lot of death and disease” before end of the year as COVID cases rise

Washington — With the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continuing to rise in states across the country, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, warned that there is going to be “a lot of death and disease” from now until the end of 2020.

“We’re in a difficult situation heading into the fall,” Gottlieb said Sunday on “Face the Nation.” “I think the only caveat is in terms of us being better prepared for this wave, is that we have dramatically improved clinical care in hospitals. So I think we’re going to have better outcomes overall, but we’re still going to have a lot of death and disease between now and the end of the year.”

There have been more than 7.7 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., and 15 states have a positivity rate above 10%. Forty states have an expanding epidemic, Gottlieb said, and hospitalizations are also rising.

In looking ahead to how the country will fare in the weeks ahead, Gottlieb predicted the U.S. is “going to face a difficult fall and winter.”

“What we thought might be just a bump after Labor Day clearly is a resurgence in a virus heading into the fall and the winter,” he said. “You’re seeing cases build across the entire country.”

The coronavirus swept through the halls of the White House this month, as President Trump, first lady Melania Trump and at least two dozen people in the president’s orbit have tested positive for COVID-19. Mr. Trump spent three days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center receiving treatment for the coronavirus, which included a dose of Regeneron’s antibody cocktail, which he has since heralded as a “cure” for the virus.

On Saturday, White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said the president is “no longer considered a transmission risk to others,” but did not specify whether Mr. Trump has tested negative for the coronavirus.

Gottlieb, however, said the president will likely not test negative for “a period of time.”

“We know that people continue to shed virus for a long period of time, but that’s dead virus,” he said. “It’s a virus that doesn’t grow in a culture, can’t really pass on the infection. There are indications that the president’s no longer infectious.”

Gottlieb added it’s safe to assume Mr. Trump is no longer contagious, as he has been symptom-free for several days and has not had a fever for more than 24 hours.

“I think the question now is, has his health been restored?” he said. “And we know that a lot of patients have lingering effects from COVID.”

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Supreme Court blocks federal abortion pill delivery restrictions; first abortion decision since Ginsburg death

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked enforcement of federal government restrictions on women seeking access to an abortion drug during the coronavirus pandemic, in the high court’s first abortion-related decision since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month.

The ruling would, for now, continue to allow women to obtain an abortion pill by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The high court has returned the case to a federal trial court in Maryland for further review of the issue. Justices Sam Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.

The Supreme Court is seen in Washington, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, as the justices begin a new term following the recent death of their colleague, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Supreme Court is seen in Washington, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, as the justices begin a new term following the recent death of their colleague, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
(AP)

The ruling comes nearly three months after a federal judge in Maryland ruled that, during the coronavirus pandemic, health care providers can arrange for mifepristone to be mailed or delivered to patients. The FDA has approved mifepristone to be used in combination with a second drug, misoprostol, to end an early pregnancy or manage a miscarriage.

Thursday’s ruling from the high court is temporary in nature, while the larger legal ramifications play out in court. It comes in response to the case, “FDA vs. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.”

DEMOCRATS RESIGNED THAT AMY CONEY BARRETT CONFIRMATION IS INEVITABLE: ‘WE CAN’T STOP THE OUTCOME’

The administration is asking to be allowed to enforce a U.S. Food and Drug Administration rule. The administration has suspended similar in-person visits for other drugs, including opioids in some cases, but refused to relax the rules for getting the abortion pill.

Alito and Thomas said they would have granted the administration’s request. “Six weeks have passed since the application was submitted, but the Court refuses to rule,” Alito wrote.

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The court called for the federal judge to take a new look at the issue and rule within 40 days – postponing any further high court action until after the November Election.  

This story contains material from the Associated Press.

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Illinois reports first West Nile virus death of the year in Chicago resident

A Chicago resident died of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus. The death marks the first West Nile virus-related fatality in the state this year, Illinois health officials announced this week.

The resident, who was not identified, first fell ill in mid-September and subsequently tested positive for the disease, officials with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) said in a news release. 

“Although we are already into fall, West Nile virus remains a risk until the first hard frost,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “It’s important for everyone to continue taking precautions such as using insect repellent, wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants, and staying indoors between dusk and dawn.”

West Nile virus, which was first reported in the U.S. in 1999, is typically spread by infected mosquitoes. Though side effects can be severe, most people who are infected experience little to no symptoms and fully recover.

WEST NILE VIRUS OVERLOOKED DURING CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC? PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERT CITES SIMILAR SYMPTOMS

A percentage of people infected with West Nile virus — roughly one in five — develop a fever and may additionally experience headaches, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea or a rash, among other side effects. Even rarer, about one in 150 people who are infected with the mosquito-linked ailment can develop a serious illness, such as inflammation of the spinal cord or brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Mayo Clinic warns people who are older, as well as those with preexisting medical conditions, are more susceptible to the virus.

MASSACHUSETTS REPORTS 4 NEW HUMAN WEST NILE VIRUS CASES

Wearing insect repellent and protective clothing, as well as draining standing water around gardens and homes where mosquitoes can lay eggs, can reduce the chances of being bitten by a mosquito, ultimately mitigating the risk of developing West Nile virus.

To date, there have been two dozen human cases of West Nile virus reported in Illinois this year, per officials. Some 28 cases were reported in 2019, including one death. 

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Death of cat with coronavirus in Alabama being investigated

Alabama officials are investigating following the death of a cat that tested positive for the novel coronavirus. 

Officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) are leading the investigation, according to a news release from the health department. 

The cat, from Opelika, Ala., first tested positive for COVID-19, at The Thompson Bishop Sparks State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Auburn. 

However, “the laboratory veterinary pathologists found significant lesions in the nervous system that typically indicates bacterial infections, suggesting that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was NOT the primary cause of death,” officials said. 

LETHAL RABBIT VIRUS DISCOVERED IN CALIFORNIA FOR FIRST TIME

The National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) was then sent additional samples, later confirming that the cat was indeed positive for the novel virus. 

Public health veterinarians with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “have found that in nearly all animal deaths associated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the animals had multiple infections or had underlying health issues at the same time. Thus far, less than 10 animal deaths in the U.S. are thought to have been associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” per officials. 

“There is still a lot we just don’t know about how frequently animals become infected, so this has been an opportunity for us to gather information that might help us prevent more infections in companion animals,” said Dr. Dee W. Jones, state public health veterinarian, in a statement. 

“We’re working with the local veterinarian and the owner to gather more information about the animal’s medical history as well as other companion animals in the household. However, at this time during the pandemic, companion animals don’t seem to be at risk from suffering severe illness with the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” he added. 

Since the pandemic began, there have been various reports of cats — both domestic and wild — contracting the virus from humans. A tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York, for instance, tested positive for the coronavirus in early April after likely being exposed to it by an infected worker. Then, later that same month, two cats in New York became the first pets in the U.S. to test positive.

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However,  at this time, experts have maintained that there is limited evidence to suggests pets can spread the virus to humans. Indeed, “SARS-CoV-2 cases in animals are thought to be very rare, and have primarily occurred 5 to 10 days following exposure to a positive human,” Alabama health officials said. 

The CDC offers guidance to pet owners amid the pandemic, advising any sick owners to “restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would with people” until COVID-19 is better understood.

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Nurse who has seen ‘hundreds of people suffocating to death’ moved to tears after Trump downplayed coronavirus

Cristina Hops, who works on the frontlines helping patients fighting coronavirus, said she was upset after reading the President’s tweet on Monday, in which he told Americans “don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.”

“When I read that and I got home, I was just so angry about it that I felt like I needed to say something,” Hops, who is based in Seattle, Washington, told CNN.

So, she made a TikTok video, to share her emotions with the world. “I have seen hundreds of people suffocating to death and for him to say do not be afraid of Covid is astounding, “she says in the video, while tearing up.”How dare he undermine all of the work that we have done as nurses and health care providers?”

Her message resonated — and the video quickly garnered more than 300,000 views on TikTok, as of Thursday evening. It’s been shared across social media platforms, with people lauding the nurse for speaking her mind.

In her experience as a health care worker, Hops said she has seen how a surge in coronavirus cases can drastically impact a community. She was sent to Miami, Florida, over the summer for five weeks to help a hospital with its influx of cases.

“The hospital that I was working at was completely overrun,” she told CNN. “It’s not possible to give everybody the care that they need and deserve when the hospital is that full.”

While Hops doesn’t believe people should live in fear, she said she felt the President’s words were irresponsible and disrespectful given how many people have been personally affected by the virus. More than 7.6 million people — including the President — have contracted coronavirus in the US, and over 212,000 people have died from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

“People are going to take this (Trump’s words) as everything is okay and it’s not a problem anymore and that’s just not the case,” she said. “It’s just not true.”

Hops said she hopes that those who see her video understand the importance of taking precautions when it comes to the virus.

If the President were to see her video, she said she wants him to realize his experience with the virus does not reflect the experience of every American.

“What’s most important is that we’re taking care of each other and we’re looking out for each other,” she said. “And I don’t feel like his tweet or any of his tweets reflect that.”

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CDC ensemble forecast forsees death toll from Covid-19 climbing to 233,000 by end of month

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecast that combines the data from dozens of independent models predicts US deaths from Covid-19 could reach 233,000 by the end of the month.



a man in a police car parked in a parking lot: People line up in their vehicles to undergo the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tests, distributed by the Wisconsin National Guard at the United Migrant Opportunity Services center, as cases spread in the Midwest, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S., October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Alex Wroblewski


© Alex Wroblewski/Reuters
People line up in their vehicles to undergo the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tests, distributed by the Wisconsin National Guard at the United Migrant Opportunity Services center, as cases spread in the Midwest, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S., October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Alex Wroblewski

“This week’s national ensemble forecast indicates an uncertain trend in new COVID-19 deaths reported over the next four weeks and predicts that 2,800 to 6,800 new deaths will likely be reported during the week ending October 31,” the CDC says on its website.

A prior ensemble forecast said there would be a total of 207,000 to 218,000 coronavirus deaths by the end of this week.

More than 212,000 Americans have already lost their lives to the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

But deaths in the US have been declining recently. A total of 4,869 people in the US died from Covid-19 during in the first week of October, down 13% when compared to the first week of September (5,611 reported deaths).

New cases on the increase

Covid-19 cases are trending upward across the US, with only two states reporting a decline of cases compared to last week. And hospitalizations across the country have also begun to rise, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

Wisconsin health officials reported a record-high number of 141 new patients Wednesday, days after the state saw records in new Covid-19 cases and deaths. Gov. Tony Evers announced the state will open a field hospital in response to the surge in hospitalizations.

“We obviously hoped this day wouldn’t come but, unfortunately, Wisconsin is in a much different and more dire place today, and our health care systems are being overwhelmed,” Evers said.

Other state leaders say they’re not trailing far behind.

“Our hospitalization rates are surging and beginning to place a strain on our healthcare system (especially staffing),” Utah Lt. Gov Spencer Cox wrote on Twitter. “Sadly, we are now seeing increased fatalities. The Wisconsin announcement should be a sobering reminder as Utah isn’t far behind in infection rates.”

Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming have all seen record-high hospitalization numbers in the past days.

The uptick in Covid-19 patients comes as the US approaches winter with a daily Covid-19 base line that experts say is far too high. For the first time since August, the nation is averaging more than 44,000 new Covid-19 cases daily, according to data from Johns Hopkins University — an average that won’t help as the country enters what health officials say will be a challenging season.

More cases will mean more community spread, more hospitalizations and ultimately, more deaths, Dr. Anthony Fauci has said.

At least half of US states, scattered across the Midwest and Northeast, are reporting more new cases than the previous week, according to Johns

Coronavirus outbreak at North Carolina hair salon tied to at least 1 death: officials

At least one person has died following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus at a hair salon in North Carolina, officials announced this week.

Haywood County Health and Human Services in a news release on Tuesday announced that the person died on Oct. 1 at a local hospital.

At least one person has died following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus at a hair salon in North Carolina, officials announced this week.

At least one person has died following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus at a hair salon in North Carolina, officials announced this week.
(iStock)

“The death certificate lists pneumonia due to COVID-19 infection as an underlying cause of death (the disease that initiated the events resulting in death.) The individual was elderly and had several underlying medical conditions,” officials said, noting that no other information will be released to protect the family’s privacy.

The coronavirus cluster is linked to Enchanting Hair Fashions salon in Canton, said officials, who did not reveal how many COVID-19 cases are linked to this specific cluster.

UNIFORM USE OF CORONAVIRUS FACE MASKS MAY HAVE PREVENTED OUTBREAK AT MISSOURI HAIR SALON: REPORT

“We extend our deepest sympathy to the family and loved ones. This is a sad reminder that COVID-19 is a serious and sometimes deadly illness. We urge all citizens to do their part by observing social distancing, wear masks and practice good hygiene,” said Health Director Patrick Johnson, in a statement.

It’s not clear if the stylists or salon patrons were wearing masks, though North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper mandated them in June.

The news comes after a review from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in July found that uniform mask-wearing at a hair salon in Missouri may have prevented nearly 140 clients from contracting the novel coronavirus from two hairstylists infected with COVID-19.

In May, two hairstylists at Great Clips in Springfield, Mo., tested positive for COVID-19 after seeing clients at the salon located at 1864 S. Glenstone Ave. The stylists treated some 139 clients between the two of them.

However, none of the clients were sickened with COVID-19. Experts are crediting the use of face maks, at least in part, for preventing what could have been a significant outbreak of the deadly virus.

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“Among 139 clients exposed to two symptomatic hair stylists with confirmed COVID-19 while both the stylists and the clients wore face masks, no symptomatic secondary cases were reported; among 67 clients tested for SARS-CoV-2, all test results were negative,” the report published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report reads. “Adherence to the community’s and company’s face-covering policy likely mitigated [the] spread of SARS-CoV-2.”

“The citywide ordinance and company policy might have played a role in preventing [the] spread of SARS-CoV-2 during these exposures,” the authors added in the report. “These findings support the role of source control in preventing transmission and can inform the development of public health policy during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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Bill Gates Says Antibody Drugs Could Sharply Reduce Covid-19 Death Rate

Antibody drugs that are in testing and were administered to President Trump could significantly reduce the death rate from Covid-19 once they are approved by regulators and more widely available, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates said Tuesday.

The drugs, in a class of medicines known as monoclonal antibodies, have shown promise in early-stage patients with Covid-19. “That’s actually pretty exciting,” Mr. Gates told The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit. “The reduction in death rate there could be pretty high, and those will be out in volume by the end of the year, at least in the rich countries.”

The drugs, developed by

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.,

Eli Lilly

and others, are designed in laboratories to mimic antibodies that the immune system produces to fight off viruses and other pathogens. They are injected intravenously and have the potential to work soon after a person is infected and only mildly ill. Scientists believe they also hold promise as a preventive tool, blocking infection temporarily.

President Trump received Regeneron’s antibody drug cocktail late last week under a compassionate use program.

Mr. Gates also expressed optimism about vaccines in development. An effective vaccine could help return life to “pretty close to normal” by late next year in the developed world, he said. Eliminating or stopping virus transmission completely would take two to three years, he said.

Progress on both drugs and vaccines will take longer in the developing world, he said, emphasizing a divide that his foundation and other global players are seeking to close.

Some public health experts are concerned that misinformation, along with any rush by governments to approve vaccines before testing is complete, will make people hesitant to receive one. If only a small percentage of populations are vaccinated, the new coronavirus will continue to spread.

Covid-19 has put a spotlight on how misinformation on social media can be harmful. Bill Gates discusses why and how to best control it, at the WSJ CEO Council Summit. Photo: Qin Lang/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

Mr. Gates said U.S. political and business leaders should speak out and help explain the value and safety of the vaccines to their constituents and employees, to lead by example and ease concerns. For example, he said, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation worked with religious leaders in northern Nigeria to persuade parents to allow their children to be vaccinated against polio.

“Here in the U.S., we should already be thinking about which voices will help reduce the hesitancy,” he said.

“The CDC that normally speaks out on these things hasn’t yet had that much visibility,” he added, referring to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If the data on the safety and efficacy of vaccines are clear, he said, “I think enough people will be interested and then you’ll build up that confidence as more and more people are taking the vaccine and getting good results.”

The Microsoft co-founder acknowledged that misinformation amplifies quickly on digital platforms, and said he doesn’t yet see a solution.

Covid-19 Medical