Categories
check devices

How to Check Your Devices for Stalkerware – WIRED

Whether it’s a prying boss or a paranoid partner, no one should snoop on your phone or laptop. But that’s exactly what can happen if stalkerware somehow gets installed on your devices. These software tools are designed to be hidden and difficult to detect, but you can find them if you know how.

There’s a wide range of scenarios here, from friends playing pranks to partners being abusive. If you’re in a relationship where you feel trapped and afraid, help is available from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the Coalition Against Stalkerware, and many other places—please reach out.

Dealing with programs planted on company-owned devices by your employer is a little different than someone you know personally trying to spy on you. The company you work for may have what it sees as valid reasons to keep tabs on how productive you are, especially if it provides the hardware and software you use every day.

Regardless of whether that kind of monitoring is justified, at the very least your bosses should be telling you they’re watching rather than keeping it a secret from you. Plus, with company-owned phones and laptops, it’s always safer to assume you are being monitored.

This guide focuses on software designed to be hidden—but remember there are plenty of legitimate parental control apps and built-in tracking tools (like Apple’s Find My) that can be used by people in your family or by people who set up your devices. The difference is that it should be obvious if these types of apps are running, but you should still be aware of them and how they can be used.

How to Check Your Phone

The good news for iPhone users is that it’s virtually impossible to install stalkerware on an iPhone: Apple’s locked-down approach to apps and app security isn’t always user-friendly, but it’s very effective at keeping you safe. iOS simply doesn’t let apps get deep enough into the system software to be able to secretly monitor what you’re doing on your phone.

There’s one exception to this, and that’s if your iPhone is jailbroken (unlocked so that any apps can be installed). Considering how difficult this is to do nowadays, we’re assuming that isn’t the case—someone else would need to be tech-savvy and borrow your phone for an extended period of time to jailbreak it. The easiest way to check is to look for apps called Cydia and SBSettings on the home screen.

Reduced battery life is one sign that your phone has been compromised.

Screenshot: David Nield via Apple

If you do find yourself with a jailbroken iPhone, a full factory reset should fix it (and wipe everything else, so make sure your important stuff is backed up somewhere). This is best done through a connected Mac or Windows computer, and Apple has a full guide to the process that you can work through here.

Getting sneaky surveillance apps onto Android devices is somewhat easier, though officially speaking they’re not allowed: Google will remove apps from the Play Store if it finds evidence of stalkerware-like behavior. Apps do slip through the net, but someone will need to access your phone (or have to have set up your phone initially) to install one. That’s actually one of the most telling warning signs to look out for: If you set up your own Android phone and no one else has ever had it for more than a few seconds, it should be stalkerware free.

If your phone has been compromised, you might notice it gets hot or the battery drains quickly while you’re not using it. You might also see notifications that you’re not expecting, or shutdown or startup times that are longer than they should be. It’s not an exact science—stalking apps are designed to be hard to spot—but any sort of unusual phone behavior could be telling.

Check the apps list to look for anything suspicious.

Screenshot: David Nield via Google

Monitoring apps will very often hide their app icons but they might show up in the main apps list, albeit under an innocuous, alternative name: From Settings on Android, tap Apps and notifications then See all apps to check. Stalkerware can also be tucked away in the actual Settings menu in Android (often in sections related to security)—look for menu items that don’t look right, or that you haven’t noticed before, or that don’t match the official documentation.

For extra peace of mind, you can enlist the help of a third-party tool: Incognito, Certo, and Kaspersky Antivirus are three phone-scanning apps that come well recommended by their users, and they should tell you if you have anything to worry about. It’s encouraging to note that the issue of secret surveillance apps is now more high profile than ever, and both Google and Apple take a very dim view of any app that attempts anything of the sort.

How to Check Your Computer

Most of the same stalkerware-spotting principles for Android and iOS apply for Windows and macOS too. Someone else needs access to your computer for a start, or to trick you into installing something yourself—not difficult for an IT manager who is supplying you with a work laptop, but a bit trickier for someone in your household. As always, keep your laptop or desktop well protected with your own user account and a password, and pay attention to its physical security, like who has access to it and when.

Both Microsoft and Apple are very conscious of the stalkerware problem, and Windows and macOS will detect and block some hidden tools without any extra help. As with any other kind of malware, stalkerware can usually be spotted by a third-party security suite: We don’t have room for a full guide here, but the likes of Norton, Bitdefender and Malwarebytes have both Windows and Mac options.

Task Manager shows what’s running and what starts up with Windows.

Screenshot: David Nield via Microsoft

If you want to do some of your own sleuthing, open up Task Manager in Windows (search for it in the taskbar search box) or Activity Monitor in macOS (search for it in Spotlight via Cmd+Space) to see everything running on your computer. Bear in mind that spyware won’t typically list itself under its real name, and may well try and pass itself off as a system app or use a short name that you’re likely to overlook.

Check through all the tabs that come up in the dialog on screen. Should you see anything that you don’t recognize, or anything that doesn’t match up to the programs you know you have installed, or that just seems suspicious in its behavior (excessive disk usage maybe), then a quick web search for the app or process name is usually enough to reveal what you’re dealing with.

You should also check for applications and processes that are starting up at the same time as your operating system, as most surveillance tools will need to do this. On Windows, you’ll find this list of software under the Start-up tab of Task Manager; on macOS, open System Preferences then select Users & Groups and Login Items. Again, run a web search for any application that you’re not sure about.

The macOS Activity Monitor tells you what’s going on with your system.

Screenshot: David Nield via Apple

There are some extra permissions stalkerware apps are likely to need on macOS: From System Preferences head to Security & Privacy, and then Privacy. Check the entries for Input Monitoring and Full Disk Access, as spying software will often need these permissions. Windows doesn’t have exactly the same setup, but you can see the permissions that apps have (including location, camera access and so on) by choosing Privacy from the Settings menu and scrolling down to App permissions.

As we’ve said, if your employer is keeping tabs on your working day then the tools should be visible and running with your knowledge. But if you’re really worried, a complete system reset for Windows or macOS should clear the majority of hidden monitoring tools, if you suspect one has taken root (just make sure you back up your files first).

How to Check Your Accounts

For someone who wants to invade someone’s privacy, it’s often easier just to gain access to their online accounts rather than try to get access to their devices. With just about everything accessible on the web, from social media to email, it’s far more effective.

With that in mind, as well as checking for unauthorized access to your devices, you should also check for unauthorized access to your accounts. This obviously starts with protecting your usernames and passwords: Make sure they’re known only to you, difficult to guess, not used across multiple accounts, and not written down anywhere. Consider using a password manager to keep those passwords strong, randomized, and different for every account you have. On accounts where it’s available, turn two-factor authentication on.

Facebook will list all of the devices that you’ve logged in on.

Screenshot: David Nield via Facebook

If there’s an unwanted visitor in your accounts, you should be able to find evidence of it. For Facebook, for example, open your settings page in a browser and click Security and login to see all the devices where your account is active (and to log out of ones you don’t recognize). In the case of Gmail on the web, click the Details button in the lower right-hand corner to see other active sessions.

Some mobile apps, like WhatsApp and Snapchat, can only be used on one device, so you know that the login you’re using is the only active one. This isn’t the case for every app though—on Instagram, for example, if you open up the app settings then tap Security and Login activity, you can see a list of all the devices linked to your account. To remove a device, tap the three dots to the side of any of the entries, then Log out.

We’d also recommend looking through the activity on your accounts—activity such as the sent folder in your email account, for example, or the messages that have been received and sent on Twitter or Facebook Messenger. It’s worth checking the drafts and trash folders in your accounts too for any evidence of unrecognized activity.

Check Instagram to see recent login activity.

Screenshot: David Nield via Instagram

If someone else has gained access to your email account, they may have set up an automatic forwarding function to another account—this is something else to check for. In Gmail on the web, for example, click the cog icon (top right), then See all settings and Forwarding and POP/IMAP: Look under the Forwarding heading to see if your email is being sent somewhere else. Check the Filters and Blocked Addresses tab too for anything that hasn’t been set up by you.

The approach is slightly different depending on the apps you use and the accounts you have, but staying on top of your active logins and keeping an eye on app activity are the best ways of spotting unwelcome visitors. Regularly changing your password is an effective way of locking other people out too.


More Great WIRED Stories

Read More

Categories
check Trump

Fact check: Trump makes at least 19 false or misleading claims in wild anti-Biden monologue – CNN

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump has long been fond of turning supposedly official events into de facto campaign rallies. Even by his own standards, though, his Tuesday speech was extreme.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, at what was billed as a “press conference” in which he would give remarks about China, Trump delivered a rambling 52-minute monologue filled with pre-scripted attacks on Democratic opponent Joe Biden.
As usual, Trump’s comments were filled with egregious lies and other false claims. We haven’t yet had a chance to comb through the entire transcript, but here is a list of the 19 false or misleading claims we have counted so far:
Biden and the suburbs
Trump said of an Obama-era housing rule meant to address racial segregation: “You’re going to abolish the suburbs with this.”
Facts First: This is nonsense. (To be specific, it is racially coded nonsense.) Diversifying or integrating suburbs does not abolish suburbs.
Biden and buildings
Trump denounced a proposal — put forward by a “unity” task force composed of people appointed by Biden and former primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders — to achieve “net-zero” carbon emissions for all new buildings by 2030. Trump claimed that this “basically means no windows.”
Facts First: That is also nonsense. Buildings with a whole bunch of windows can have net-zero emissions, which means they produce as much renewable energy as the energy they consume. And the task force’s proposal wouldn’t mandate net-zero buildings; rather, this would simply be a “national goal.”
Biden and immigration
Trump claimed that the Sanders-Biden task force group had proposed to “abolish immigration detention.”
Facts First: The task force proposed to abolish for-profit immigration detention centers in particular, not abolish immigration detention entirely. It did propose to reduce the use of immigration detention, but not to get rid of it.
The task force report said: “We believe detention should be a last resort, not the default. Democrats will prioritize investments in more effective and cost-efficient community-based alternatives to detention. We will end for-profit detention centers and ensure that any facility where migrants are being detained is held to the highest standards of care and guarantees the safety and dignity of families. Detention of children should be restricted to the shortest possible time, with their access to education and proper care ensured.”
Obama, Biden and H1N1
Trump claimed that Biden and President Barack Obama got bad “marks” in the polls for their handling of the H1N1 pandemic.
Facts First: Polls on the Obama administration’s handling of H1N1 did not ask respondents about Biden in particular — and Obama’s own approval rating on handling the pandemic was significantly higher than Trump’s approval rating on handling the coronavirus pandemic.
Obama was at 57% approval on the pandemic in a CNN poll in the fall of 2009; Trump is now averaging 39% approval on the pandemic, according to an average by the political website FiveThirtyEight.
Hunter Biden’s career
Trump claimed that Biden’s son Hunter Biden did not have a job before he was appointed to the board of directors of a Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma, in 2014.
Facts First: Hunter Biden was employed as a lawyer at the firm Boies Schiller Flexner, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, and CEO of an investment firm he co-founded. He was also chairman of the board of World Food Program USA.
Fraud and mail-in voting
Trump claimed that there is “tremendous fraud” with mail-in voting.
Facts First: All evidence shows that voter fraud is extremely rare in the US, though it does happen on occasion; experts say fraud is slightly more common with mail-in voting than with in-person voting, but still represents a minuscule fraction of votes cast.
Mail ballot fraud is exceedingly rare in part because states have systems and processes in place to prevent forgery, theft and other nefarious behavior. You can read longer fact checks here and here.
Trump and DACA
Trump claimed that he will take care of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program “much better than the Democrats did.”
Facts First: This is nonsensical. Trump has repeatedly tried to end the DACA program, an Obama initiative, despite vocal Democratic objections. And Trump has rejected various Democratic proposals to save the program even though they have offered him concessions on his own priorities, like funding for a wall on the US-Mexico border.
The border wall
Trump claimed that his wall on the Mexican border is “almost completed.”
Facts First: “Almost” is vague, but this an exaggeration; even by Trump’s own account, around half of the wall is done. Trump tweeted Sunday that 240 miles had been built — but that the wall will be a total of 450 miles by the end of the year; he has previously said he wants a total length of as many as 500 miles.
An official government update provided to CNN says that that 229 miles had been built as of July 2. Previous official updates have made clear that a tiny fraction of the miles built — for example, three miles of the 216 built as of June 19 — have been erected where no barriers existed before; the rest have been replacement or reinforcement barriers.
Trump’s travel restrictions on Europe
Trump claimed he put a “ban” on people from traveling from Europe during the coronavirus pandemic.
Facts First: This is an exaggeration. His travel restrictions contained multiple exemptions — for US citizens, for permanent residents, for many of the family members of both groups, and for multiple European countries, including Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Serbia.
Nancy Pelosi and Trump’s travel restrictions on China
Trump claimed that, after he imposed a travel “ban” on China, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was “dancing in the streets of Chinatown” in San Francisco.
Facts First: Trump’s restrictions on China were not a “ban,” either — he exempted citizens, permanent and family members in that policy, too — and Pelosi didn’t dance. She just walked around Chinatown in February to encourage other people to visit, amid concerns about anti-Asian discrimination related to the virus.
Trump could criticize her for not taking the virus seriously enough at the time, though he was himself claiming at the time that the virus was under control, but he keeps exaggerating about what she said and did.
The European Union
Trump claimed that Europe “has never treated us well,” then repeated his regular claim that the European Union was formed “to take advantage of the United States.”
Facts First: Experts on European integration say the EU was not formed to “take advantage” of the US. You can read more here.
China’s economy
Trump claimed that China’s economy had been “flat-lining” for “years and years and years and decades” before it joined the World Trade Organization in late 2001. He also claimed China had been having its worst economic year in “67 years” before the coronavirus crisis.
Facts First: China had experienced significant growth in the years prior to joining the WTO in late 2001; Nicholas Lardy of the Peterson Institute for International Economics wrote in 2008: “China has been the fastest growing economy in the world over almost three decades, expanding at 10 per cent per year in real terms.” And China had been having the worst year in 29 years, not 67, before the present crisis hit.
According to World Bank figures, China grew by 7.7% in 1999, 8.5% in 2000 and 8.3% in 2001. After joining the WTO, it grew by 9.1% in 2002, 10.0% in 2003 and 10.1% in 2004.
China’s officially reported 2019 growth rate, 6.1%, was the lowest since 1990, 29 years prior. While China’s official figures are unreliable, there is no basis for the “67 years” claim; Trump has habitually exaggerated how long it had been since China’s growth was as slow as it was in 2019, steadily inflating the figure over time.
China and tariffs
Trump claimed, as usual, that China is paying a lot of tariffs because of him.
Facts First: It is American importers who make the tariff payments to the US government. And study after study has shown that American companies and consumers, not people and companies in China, are bearing the majority of the cost of Trump’s tariffs.
Coronavirus mortality
Trump claimed that the US has “just about” the world’s lowest mortality rate for the coronavirus.
Facts First: While we don’t know the true mortality rate in the US and in other countries, since we don’t know exactly how many people have been infected with the virus, there is no basis in existing data for the claim that the US is a world leader or “just about.” According to Johns Hopkins University data, the US rate was 4% as of Tuesday — worse than all but six of the 20 countries whose rates Johns Hopkins is tracking.
Coronavirus cases and testing
Trump again suggested that the US has so many coronavirus cases only because it does so much testing. He said the US would have fewer cases if it did less testing: “If we did half the testing, we’d have half the cases.”
Facts First: Cases do not cease to exist if they aren’t recorded. Testing helps reduce the spread of the virus and thus the number of cases. And testing is not the reason the US has experienced a recent increase in its number of recorded cases; rather, the virus is spreading. You can read a longer fact check on Trump’s testing claims here.
Deportations to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador
Trump touted agreements he made with Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, claiming that under him, unlike under Obama, these countries are willing to accept criminals the US wants to deport back.
Facts First: Trump was mixing up two separate issues. While the Trump administration does have new agreements with all three of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, those agreements are related to the handling of people who come to the US seeking asylum, not criminals the US is seeking to deport. In 2016, just prior to Trump’s presidency, none of the three countries was on the list of countries that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) considered “recalcitrant” (uncooperative) in accepting the return of their citizens from the US.
You can read a longer fact check here.
Ventilators
Talking about the coronavirus crisis, Trump claimed that we initially “had very few ventilators.”
Facts First: “Very few ventilators” is less egregious than Trump’s repeated claim that he was left no ventilators at all, but it’s still misleading at best. According to a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Trump administration inherited about 19,000 ventilators from the Obama administration, including all 16,660 of the ones that were ready to be deployed as of March of this year; as of June 23, the Trump administration had distributed fewer than 11,000 ventilators.

Read More

Categories
check Trump

Fact Check: Trump Blasts CDC Guidelines On Reopening Schools – NPR

President Trump, seen here at a roundtable discussion at the White House on Tuesday, rebuked the CDC for its guidelines on reopening schools in a tweet Wednesday.

Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump, seen here at a roundtable discussion at the White House on Tuesday, rebuked the CDC for its guidelines on reopening schools in a tweet Wednesday.

Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Updated 2:20 p.m. ET

In the latest move from the Trump administration to push for states to reopen schools this fall, Vice President Pence couched guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to safely reopen schools, saying it shouldn’t be used as a “barrier” to students returning to classrooms.

Speaking to reporters during a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting at the Department of Education Wednesday afternoon, Pence stressed that states and local governments should “tailor their plans” to enable to students to return to in-person instruction.

“None of the CDC’s recommendations are intended to replace state and local rules and guidance,” Pence said.

3 Million Cases: Coronavirus Continues To Surge Across U.S.

Pence was joined by CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, who emphasized that it is not the intent of the CDC to provide a “rationale to keep schools closed” and that existing guidelines aren’t meant to be prescriptive.

Pence and Redfield’s comments come after President Trump slammed the CDC Wednesday morning, calling its guidelines for reopening schools in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic “impractical” and “expensive.”

“I disagree with the @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools. While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools. While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 8, 2020

Health officials’ guidance

Existing CDC guidance includes temporary school dismissals if there is a substantial spread of COVID-19 within the community and, in cases of mild to moderate community transmission, modifying classes where students are in close contact, staggering arrival/dismissal times and enforcing social distancing.

The CDC continues to update its website with best practices, including this checklist for schools. It’s unclear which specific guidance the president was rebuking.

Tracking The Pandemic: Are Coronavirus Cases Rising Or Falling In Your State?

Pence said the CDC will be issuing new documents next week about how to reopen schools, including guidance on screening for COVID symptoms.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a strong statement in June in favor of bringing children back to the classroom in the fall wherever and whenever they can do so safely. The statement included recommendations about physical distancing, cleaning and disinfection, hand-washing, and using outdoor space whenever possible.

Funding threat confusion

Trump on Wednesday went as far as to threaten to cut off federal funding if schools do not reopen and suggested that his political opponents are somehow interfering with the reopening process, saying Democrats think reopening would hurt them politically in the November election.

In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 8, 2020

However, the decision to reopen schools — like the decision to close them in March — is not top-down, but made from the bottom-up by thousands of local and state school leaders and public health officials.

Despite this, Trump has made his desires clear.

“We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools,” he said during a roundtable discussion on the subject Tuesday.

Meanwhile, senior administration officials told reporters on a background call Tuesday morning that while the White House will provide states with “best practices” on reopening, the decision remains a local one.

Trump Pledges To 'Pressure' Governors To Reopen Schools Despite Health Concerns

Hours after threatening to withhold funding to states that choose not to reopen, Pence assured reporters that the White House would be “very respectful” of state and local communities who can’t fully reopen schools due to “certain limitations.”

Trump’s comments and tweets and the subsequent clarifications from other members of the administration reflect the dissonance in the White House’s messaging on this issue.

How school funding works

On average, public schools receive less than 10% of their funding from the U.S. government, and that money is largely devoted to helping schools serve low-income students and children with disabilities. In short, the nation’s most vulnerable students.

For decades, that funding stream has flowed through Congress with bipartisan support, and Trump has no authority to cut it off or add new requirements to funding lawmakers have already allocated.

Harvard, MIT Sue Immigration Officials Over Rule Blocking Some International Students

Following Trump’s tweet, Evan Hollander, communications director for the House Appropriations Committee, underscored that the power of the purse rests with Congress, not the president.

“Congress provides federal education funding to support some of the most vulnerable young people in our country. The President has no authority to cut off funding for these students, and threatening to do so to prop up his flailing campaign is offensive,” Hollander told NPR in a statement.

Here's How Much Congress Has Approved For Coronavirus Relief So Far And What It's For

In fact, public schools are facing a financial crisis as states slash education budgets in response to the pandemic-driven recession, and the federal government has so far done little to help them make up for those cuts or shoulder the expensive, new burdens of following public health guidance: deep-cleaning schools, hiring nurses, creating socially distanced classrooms.

During Wednesday’s briefing, Pence suggested that the administration is considering a new relief package for schools and could potentially create incentives in such a bailout for states and/or districts that reopen schools more broadly.

Congress set aside roughly $13 billion for schools as part of the CARES Act, but Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has complicated the distribution of that money by insisting that public schools use a far larger share of the aid to help students attending private schools. A bill passed by the House to provide school districts with another $58 billion has languished in the Senate.

NPR’s congressional reporter Claudia Grisales and White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez contributed to this report.

Read More

Categories
check Grilles

Check Out All 11 Grilles For The 2021 Ford F-150 – Motor1

It’ll be 12 grilles when the new F-150 Raptor arrives. We can make do with these until then.

The new-and-improved 2021 Ford F-150 debuted yesterday, bringing with it a few features available on the full-size pickup for the first time. Some of the highlights include an optional hybrid powertrain – which the company calls “PowerBoost” – a new 12.0-inch touchscreen, and Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 safety suite available as an option. But you might have missed this: Of the F-150’s 13 trims, 11 of them have unique grille designs.

XL / XL Chrome

2src21 Ford F-15src Grille Designs
2src21 Ford F-15src Grille Designs

The F-150 XL and the XL Chrome are the entry-level versions of this truck, so expect both of them have a relatively basic design. The plastic vertical slats and black inserts match the truck’s affordable demeanor, and while there’s nothing facny about this grille, it still looks good.

STX

2src21 Ford F-15src Grille Designs

The F-150 STX has a more subdued grille design by comparison, but it looks nicer. Rather than the vertical slats and black plastics inserts of the XL and XL Chrome models, the STX sports a black mesh treatment around the Ford logo and body-colored surround. That gives the truck’s grille a cleaner look, contrary to the black plastic surrounds on the two entry-level models.

XLT

2src21 Ford F-15src Grille Designs

The F-XLT is the first in the new F-150 range to get chrome. A chrome surround envelops a basic black grille that looks similar to the base XL and XL Chrome models. The interior portion of the grille wears a similar black plastic treatment with vertical slats and horizontal accents to the one found on the entry-level models.

XLT Chrome

2src21 Ford F-15src Grille Designs

The F-150 XLT Chrome – you guessed it – gets even more chrome. Joining the XLT model’s chrome surround is a new horizontal insert that wraps around the Ford logo. Like the XLT, the XLT Chrome also gets a new bright finish on the lower portion of the bumper.

XLT Sport

2src21 Ford F-15src Grille Designs

The F-150 XLT Sport ditches chrome in place of a gunmetal-colored surround and full-width trim piece instead. The black plastic inserts are bigger, too, and the chrome accent on the lower portion of the XLT and XLT Chrome model disappears in place of a body-colored finish instead.

Lariat

2src21 Ford F-15src Grille Designs

The F-150 Lariat gets more luxuries than most of the previous models mentioned, and that’s obvious by looking at the grille. The big, chrome trim piece – front and center – denotes the Lariat’s more upscale look. That feature extends the width of the grille and pairs with slim vertical slats behind it, as well as more chrome on the front bumper.

Lariat Chrome

2src21 Ford F-15src Grille Designs

The F-150 Lariat Chrome gets the same horizontal insert as the traditional Lariat model, only now the vertical black slats are swapped for chrome slats instead. That extra chrome gives the truck a more upscale look, and like the traditional Lariat, the Chrome model also gets a shiny treatment lower down on the bumper.

Lariat Sport

2src21 Ford F-15src Grille Designs

The F-150 Lariat Sport loses all of the chrome from the two other Lariat models, instead coating that big horizontal trim piece in a dark gunmetal finish. The vertical slats also revert back to black, and the chrome feature on the lower portion of the bumper now gets a body-colored finish.

King Ranch / King Ranch Chrome

2src21 Ford F-15src Grille Designs
2src21 Ford F-15src Grille Designs

The F-150 King Ranch and King Ranch Chrome have a unique grille design that instantly separates the two models from the rest of the range. There’s a gold-colored trim piece that extends the width of the grille, paired to matching gold inserts throughout. The only thing that separates the two trucks is the lower portion of the bumper: The normal F-150 King Ranch gets a matching gold-colored bumper while the King Ranch Chrome gets a shiny bumper.

Platinum

2src21 Ford F-15src Grille Designs

The F-150 Platinum uses the same grille design as the King Ranch and King Ranch Chrome models: a full-width bar and matching inserts. Only it loses the unique gold coloring of those two models, swapping it for a normal silver finish instead. The F-150 Platinum also gets a body-colored lower bumper.

Limited

2src21 Ford F-15src Grille Designs

The F-150 Limited has the most unique grille of them all. Though it borrows the same full-width bar piece as the previous three trims, the Limited gets a larger silver surround, unique silver vertical slats, and the “LIMITED” wordmark across the top.


2src21 Ford F-15src

68 Photos

Read More

Categories
check Trump

Fact check: Trump has spent far more time at golf clubs than Obama had at same point – CNN

Washington (CNN)Criticized for golfing twice on a Memorial Day weekend during which the US coronavirus death toll approached 100,000, President Donald Trump responded Sunday and Monday by drawing attention, again, to former President Barack Obama’s golfing.

Trump denounced the media, which he called “sick with hatred and dishonesty,” for supposedly failing to mention that Saturday was his first time golfing in three months. (CNN, among other outlets, did note that it was his first golf outing since March 8.) Trump also accused the media of failing to talk about “all of the time Obama spent on the golf course, often flying to Hawaii in a big, fully loaded 747, to play. What did that do to the so-called Carbon Footprint?”
“Barack was always playing golf,” he said in one of his five golf-related tweets.
Facts First: Trump has spent much more time playing golf than Obama did through this point of the term — after repeatedly attacking Obama’s golfing and claiming he would not play if he got elected himself. Just Trump’s airplane trips to his Mar-a-Lago Club and residence in Florida, from which he has often taken a motorcade ride to a nearby golf course he owns, have required far more air travel than Obama’s once-a-year Hawaii vacations did through this point in the term.

Obama vs. Trump: Golf by the numbers

Obama played 98 rounds of golf through this point in his presidency, according to data provided to CNN by Mark Knoller, a veteran CBS News White House correspondent who is known for tracking presidential activities. By contrast, Knoller said, Trump has spent all or part of 248 days at a golf course.
CNN’s own count has Trump at 266 days spending some time at a Trump golf course.
Since Trump and his aides often refuse to confirm that he actually played golf during a visit to a golf club, even when he has been spotted in golf attire, it is not possible to definitively say how many times Trump has golfed as President. And some of Trump’s rounds, like when he plays with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, mix leisure with official business.
Regardless, it is clear that Trump has spent more time golfing than Obama. And Trump’s own golf-related “carbon footprint” has been bigger than Obama’s even if you count only air travel.
Through this point in his first presidential term, Obama had made three vacation trips to his birth state of Hawaii for a total of 29,978 miles in the air, Knoller tweeted, while Trump has made 30 trips to Palm Beach, Florida, the home of Mar-a-Lago, for a total of 51,540 miles.
Obama played 333 rounds during his eight years as president, according to Knoller. In other words, Obama played golf once every 8.77 days as president. Trump, conversely, has been at a golf club once every 4.92 days so far.
It’s also worth noting that Trump’s trips — like his Saturday and Sunday visits to the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia — have almost exclusively been to resort properties and golf courses his company owns.
In addition to the promotional value of these trips by a president, Trump’s company has generated hundreds of thousands in revenue from charges to the Secret Service, according to Washington Post reporting.

Trump’s history of criticizing Obama’s golfing

Trump, now lashing out against criticism of his own golfing, was a vocal critic of Obama’s golfing. He promised that he would be different as president.
“I don’t have time for that. I love golf. I think it’s one of the greats. but I don’t have time. Two-hundred-fifty rounds — that’s more than a guy who plays on the PGA Tour plays. He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods,” Trump said at a December 2015 campaign rally. “No, think of it. We don’t have time for this. We don’t have time for this. We have to work. We have to work, OK?”
Trump said at an August 2016 campaign rally that he may never see his properties again if he was elected, explaining, “Because I’m going to be working for you, I’m not going to have time to go play golf.” And in an October 2016 speech, Trump said Obama’s struggles to pass legislation were a result of excessive golfing.
“Everything’s executive order because he doesn’t have enough time because he’s playing so much golf. He doesn’t have enough time to convince Congress to do it. This guy plays more golf than people on the PGA Tour,” Trump said.

Obama and James Foley

In one of his Sunday tweets, Trump criticized Obama for “once even teeing off immediately after announcing the gruesome death of a great young man by ISIS!”
This was accurate. Obama did golf in 2014, while on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, minutes after condemning the murder of journalist James Foley. Obama conceded in an interview the next month that the golfing was a bad idea, saying, “I should’ve anticipated the optics.”
Obama said the “theater” component of the presidency doesn’t come naturally to him, “but it matters.”

Read More

Categories
check Trump

Fact check: Trump falsely denies FDA warning on hydroxychloroquine, baselessly alleges political bias in study – CNN

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump continued Tuesday to make false and baseless claims about hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug he has repeatedly promoted and now says he is himself taking.

At a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Trump falsely denied the existence of a Food and Drug Administration warning about the use of hydroxychloroquine for the coronavirus. And he claimed without any evidence that a study on veterans who were given the drug was conducted by political foes who had set out to hurt him.
The FDA warning
Trump was reminded by a reporter on Tuesday that the FDA has said hydroxychloroquine should not be used outside of a hospital setting or research studies.
Trump interjected: “No. That’s not what I was told. No.”
Facts First: The reporter was right. The FDA issued a safety warning on April 24 that was headlined, “FDA cautions against use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for COVID-19 outside of the hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems.”
We don’t know what Trump might have been personally told, but he was incorrect when he said “no” in response to the reporter’s accurate premise.
The study of veterans
Trump lambasted a study that had found no benefit from hydroxychloroquine in a group of veterans with the coronavirus who were given the drug. He called it a “phony study” and said it was done by “obviously not friends of the administration” who wanted to “make political points.”
The President made similar comments earlier on Tuesday, speaking of an unspecified “bad survey” that was “a Trump enemy statement.” On Monday, he claimed the study at the VA was done by “people that aren’t big Trump fans.”
He also complained Tuesday that the drug had been given to people who were “old” and “ready to die.”
Facts First: There is no evident basis for Trump’s claims that the study of veterans was designed to hurt him. While there are valid criticisms of the study — which was small, retrospective, focused on seriously ill patients, not peer-reviewed and not randomized or controlled — Trump has provided no proof for his claims of some sort of political plot. The authors of the study explicitly acknowledged that it has significant limitations. Larger, peer-reviewed studies have also concluded that hydroxychloroquine has not benefited coronavirus patients.
The study at the VA, conducted by researchers at the University of South Carolina, the University of Virginia and the Dorn Research Institute in South Carolina, looked at the medical data of 368 male patients at veterans’ health centers — 97 patients who took hydroxychloroquine, 113 who took hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin, and 158 patients who did not. The patients who took hydroxychloroquine alone had a 27.8% death rate, while those who didn’t take the drug had an 11.4% death rate. The study also found that patients who took the drug were not significantly less likely to need mechanical ventilation.
The study was published on the medical website medRxiv, not a peer-reviewed journal. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie has noted that the study looked at “a small number of veterans” who were “in the last stages of life.” VA spokesperson Christine Noel told NBC that hydroxychloroquine was “provided to VA’s sickest COVID-19 patients, many times as a last resort.”
“It is possible that the sicker patients received more medication than did the people who were less sick, and therefore these retrospective studies are a guide, but they are not definitive,” Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University medical professor and expert in infectious diseases, said on CNN Tuesday after Trump’s comments, saying that “more careful studies are needed.”
The authors of the study, who did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment, wrote effectively the same thing in the study itself: “These findings highlight the importance of awaiting the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies before widespread adoption of these drugs.” They also openly discussed specific limitations of their study. For example, they wrote that since they were looking at a majority-black group of males with a median age over 65, their findings might not be applicable to women, younger people and other groups.
A number of randomized, controlled trials are underway around the US and elsewhere to more conclusively determine the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine for the coronavirus. (The drug is already FDA-approved for use against malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.) It’s worth noting, though, that the study of the veterans was not the only one to date that did not find hydroxychloroquine effective as a coronavirus treatment.
A University of Albany study of 1,438 patients with coronavirus at 25 hospitals in the New York City area, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found similar death rates for people who took hydroxychloroquine (or hydroxychloroquine plus azithromycin) and those who did not. It also found patients who took the drug combination were more than twice as likely to suffer cardiac arrest during the course of the study.
A study conducted by the New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Irving Medical Center and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which assessed 1,376 consecutive patients, also did not find improved outcomes from hydroxychloroquine.
David Shulkin, Trump’s former VA secretary, said on Twitter after the President’s remarks on Tuesday: “The risks of taking hydroxychloroquine are real, yet no data has shown it’s effective for COViD19. Thats why this should only be used now within ongoing clinical trials. I worry about the example being set and whether others may take the drug inappropriately.”

Read More

Categories
check stimulus

Want Your Stimulus Check Direct Deposited? Sign Up By Noon Wednesday – NPR

If you haven’t gotten your pandemic relief payment yet and would like to receive it by direct deposit, make sure the IRS has your bank account information before noon Wednesday.

Susan Walsh/AP


hide caption

toggle caption

Susan Walsh/AP

If you haven’t gotten your pandemic relief payment yet and would like to receive it by direct deposit, make sure the IRS has your bank account information before noon Wednesday.

Susan Walsh/AP

If you’re still waiting for your pandemic payment from the federal government, and you would like to receive it directly into your bank account, head over to the IRS website by noon on Wednesday.

If the IRS doesn’t have your direct deposit information by that deadline, you’ll still get your payment — but you’ll receive it in the form of a paper check, which might not arrive until June.

Citizens and resident aliens earning less than $75,000 in individual adjusted gross income are generally eligible for a $1,200 relief payment. Individuals earning more may be eligible for a partial payment.

For most people, the payments were automatic and no action was necessary. The IRS has sent payments to some 130 million people already. The new deadline only applies to people who have not received a payment yet and who have not confirmed that the IRS has their bank account information.

“We want people to visit Get My Payment before the noon Wednesday deadline so they can provide their direct deposit information,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said. “Time is running out for a chance to get these payments several weeks earlier through direct deposit.”

If you filed a federal tax return and received a refund via direct deposit — or if you receive other benefits to your account, like Social Security or Supplemental Security Income — the IRS should already have your bank account information. You can use the “Get My Payment” online tool to confirm your bank account is on file and check the status of your payment.

If you are not required to file a federal tax return, you can use this IRS page to request your payment electronically.

Remember, the IRS will not contact you directly for information, and you will never have to provide any money to receive your stimulus check. Any calls, texts or emails asking for information are scams.

Read More

Categories
check Trump

Fact check: Trump peppers Fox News town hall with false claims on coronavirus and other topics – CNN

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump delivered another rapid series of false and misleading claims on Sunday night, this time at a Fox News “virtual town hall” event at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

Trump was dishonest both about matters pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic and about his usual array of other topics, from trade with China to his rally crowds. Here is a preliminary list — which doesn’t even include all of the inaccuracies:

Previous administrations and HIV/AIDS

The President kicked off a slew of false claims Sunday night with one he’s made several times before, aimed at a familiar target: the Obama administration. Trump accused the previous administration of doing “nothing” to address AIDS.
He said, “We will be AIDS-free within 8 years. We started, 10 years. Should’ve started in the previous administration. They did nothing. It started at my administration.”
Facts First: It’s not even close to true that previous administrations did nothing to address HIV/AIDS in the US, experts say and budget data proves.
Republican President George W. Bush is known for the initiatives his administration spearheaded to combat AIDS, especially in Africa. And the Obama administration spent more than $5.5 billion per year on the three primary domestic programs to combat HIV/AIDS, according to figures provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which closely tracks health care spending. (That’s in addition to billions in spending on international anti-HIV/AIDS initiatives.)
Obama also introduced a comprehensive national strategy on combating HIV/AIDS. And experts note that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, helped people with HIV gain health insurance coverage.
In 2019, Trump issued a plan called “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America,” which aimed to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the US by 75% within five years and by at least 90% within 10 years. Experts said that Trump’s plan builds on Obama’s 2010 National HIV/AIDS Strategy and a 2015 update to that strategy.
In fact, before issuing its own plan, the Trump administration said, that it was being guided by the Obama-era strategy: “The domestic policies and programs of the Federal government continue to be guided by the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, and we are focused on working toward achieving the Strategy goals for 2020.”
You can read a longer fact check here.

Travel restrictions

Asked about what his administration did early on to respond to coronavirus, Trump praised his decision to impose restrictions on travel from China.
“I closed down the country to China,” Trump said, adding later, “I did the China ban.”
Facts First: It’s not true that Trump “closed down” the country entirely, or that he banned travel from China outright. Only foreign nationals who had been in China within the past 14 days were outright banned from entering the US.
When asked by Fox News’s Martha MacCallum about the approximately 40,000 people who entered the country from China after Trump announced these travel restrictions, Trump said “they were American citizens by the way.” However, citizens were not the only exempted group able to enter the country under the Trump administration’s travel restrictions. The restrictions also exempted permanent residents, some of the close family members of citizens and permanent residents, and some others.
You can read more about the Trump administration’s travel restrictions in response to coronavirus here.

Fauci on coronavirus threat

Trump announced his travel restrictions against China at the end of January. At Sunday’s town hall, Trump claimed that a month later even Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said the coronavirus was “going to pass, not going to be a big deal.”
Facts First: Trump is wrong that Fauci publicly said the virus was “not going to be a big deal” and would “pass.” While it is true that Fauci said in late February that Americans did not need to change their behavior patterns at that time, he also clarified that these conditions could change and coronavirus could develop into a major outbreak.
You can read more about what Fauci actually said here.

An apology from Joe Biden?

Touting the restrictions on China, Trump claimed that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former vice president Joe Biden had issued an apology for past criticism on the subject.
“Biden has now written a letter of apology because I did the right thing,” Trump said.
Facts First: Biden’s campaign announced in early April that he supports Trump’s travel restrictions on China. But neither Biden nor his campaign apologized for any previous criticism of Trump. The campaign says that Biden’s comments Trump has described as criticism of the China restrictions — in which Biden said Trump has a record of “hysterical xenophobia” and “fear mongering” — were not about the travel restrictions.
Biden’s campaign says he did not know about the China restrictions at the time of the January 31 speech in which he made these remarks, since Biden’s campaign event in Iowa started shortly after the briefing during which the China restrictions were revealed by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
Given the timing of the Biden remarks, it’s not unreasonable for the Trump campaign to infer that Biden was talking about the travel restrictions. But Biden never took an explicit position on the restrictions until his April declaration of support — and whether or not you accept his campaign’s argument that the “xenophobia” claim was not about the restrictions, he certainly hasn’t apologized.

The timing of the Biden campaign’s statement

Trump continued to suggest that the Biden campaign tried to bury its statement of support for the travel restrictions on China, claiming the campaign released the supposed letter “on a Friday night.”
Facts First: The Biden campaign revealed during the day on Friday, April 3, not at night, that Biden supports the restrictions. Deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield made a daytime statement to CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper, who filed his article to CNN editors at 1:28 p.m. (Tapper’s article was last updated at 4:42 p.m. that day, the CNN website shows.)

False and misleading claims about hydroxychloroquine

The Fox News anchors asked Trump about hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that Trump spent much of March and April promoting as a potential “game-changer” for Covid-19.
Trump’s comments about the drug typically haven’t been rooted in science. His response during Sunday’s townhall was full of false information.
Facts First: Trump made at least five false or misleading claims about hydroxychloroquine in about two minutes. He exaggerated the good results and understated the bad results from early medical research. He implied the drug was safe, even though the Food and Drug Administration now says there are deadly side effects. And he falsely suggested it was harmless to tout the drug so aggressively, even though his past promotion led to shortages for Americans with pre-existing conditions.
First: Asked about studies that found cardiac side effects in Covid-19 patients, Trump said it was only “one study.” There have been a handful of studies with similarly problematic or unhelpful results, including a trial from Brazil, a trial in France, a study of veterans’ hospitals in the US and a large study of coronavirus patients in New York, the epicenter of the outbreak.
Second: When Trump said, “There were studies that came out that say it’s very good,” he isn’t telling the full story. Some small, early trials found positive results for hydroxychloroquine. But the most influential of those early studies, run by a controversial doctor in France, wasn’t a randomized trial, and the publisher of the study now says the trial didn’t meet its standards.
Third: Trump said he recently got “three calls” from “people that took (hydroxychloroquine) and they’re giving it credit for saving their lives.” He has cited stories like these in the past. It’s a good thing when anyone gets better, but these are just anecdotes from some of the 1.1 million Americans known to have the coronavirus. They don’t carry the same weight as actual scientific evidence.
Fourth: By saying, “we don’t lose anything with hydroxy,” Trump is whitewashing the fallout from his dogged promotion of the drugs back in March and early April. CNN previously reported that his comments led to shortages for many chronically ill Americans who have relied on this particular drug for years. The FDA website says hydroxychloroquine is “currently in shortage.”
Fifth: By saying “people aren’t dying” by trying hydroxychloroquine, Trump is falsely implying that we know the drugs are safe to treat the virus. He has said this before, and it isn’t accurate. The FDA gave hospitals emergency authority to use the drug, but issued warnings about deadly side effects. Also, a hydroxychloroquine trial in Brazil was halted after some patients died.

Trade with China

Trump repeated three false claims regarding trade with China. He claimed “we were losing $500 billion a year to China, for years,” and that “China never gave 10 cents to our country” before he took office. Regarding his tariffs on China, Trump said the Chinese “paid for that tax, it wasn’t our people. They paid for that tax, they devalued their currency.”
Facts First: Not only are Americans bearing most of the cost of Trump’s tariffs but the US has also had tariffs on China for more than two centuries, generating an average of $12 billion a year from 2007 to 2016, FactCheck.org reported. There has also never been a $500 billion trade deficit with China. (Trump describes trade deficits as “losing,” though many economists dispute that characterization.)
You can read a longer fact check on Trump’s China tariffs here.

Hunter Biden and China

In criticizing the previous administration’s dealings with China, Trump took a shot at Hunter Biden, the son of the former vice president.
“President Obama and Joe Biden didn’t do anything. China just had a field day with our country. And then you look at his son, walking out with $1.5 billion — give me a break on that.”
Facts First: While Hunter Biden has previously had a board seat and a financial stake in a private-equity fund that the Chinese government-owned Bank of China has invested in, there is no evidence he walked out of the country with $1.5 billion. Hunter Biden’s lawyer, George Mesires, said in an October 2019 statement that the firm, BHR Partners, was “capitalized with 30 million renminbi (RMB), or approximately $4.2 million USD at today’s currency exchange rates.”
As of October 2019, Hunter Biden had a 10% interest in BHR. In December 2013, the same month the fund was officially established, Hunter joined his father on a trip to China. There, Hunter met up with Jonathan Li, the fund’s China-based partner. The New Yorker reported that Li met Hunter at his hotel and shook hands with Joe Biden. However, according to The New Yorker, Hunter maintains that visit with Li was social, not business-related.
In July 2019, more than two years after his father left office, Hunter purchased an equity stake in the BHR fund, valued around $430,000, according to Mesires.
“To date, Hunter has not received any compensation for being on BHR’s board of directors. He has not received any return on his investment; there have been no distributions to BHR shareholders since Hunter obtained his equity interest,” Mesires said in the October 2019 statement.

The US contribution to NATO

Trump claimed that, until he got NATO members to significantly increase their spending, “They weren’t paying. We were paying for 100% of NATO.”
Facts First: The US was not “paying for 100% of NATO” before Trump’s presidency, though its defense spending did represent the majority of total NATO defense spending.
NATO countries other than the US spent a total of $262 billion on defense in 2016, according to official NATO figures released in November 2019 (which used 2015 prices and exchange rates). The US spent $651 billion itself that year, about 71% of the total. That’s a large percentage, but “100%” is a significant exaggeration.
NATO also has its own direct budget to fund its operations. While the US was also the biggest contributor to this budget in 2016, covering about 22%, it was, clearly, not alone; Germany covered about 15%, France about 11%, the United Kingdom about 10%, and so on. Countries’ contributions were set based on their national income.

Read More

Categories
check Trump

Fact check: Trump says the U.S. ready to contain COVID-19 with contact tracing. Experts disagree. – NBCNews.com

President Donald Trump and members of his administration, who are eager to have parts of the economy restarted, have insisted that a robust contact tracing program to contain future outbreaks of the coronavirus is in place — even as public health experts warn the system is flawed and states are still largely unprepared.

“Our blueprint describes how states should unlock their full capacity, expand the number of testing platforms, establish monitoring systems to detect local outbreaks, and conduct contact tracing. We have it all,” Trump said on April 27.

“We’ve gotten good at tracing,” he claimed days earlier, during a news briefing on April 23. In the same briefing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield said he was confident in the country’s plan to isolate people who test positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and trace all their contacts so that those people can be tested and isolated.

Contact tracing, the time consuming process of tracking down the associates of people who test positive for viral contagions, is seen as key to a safe reopening.

But with some states moving to roll back lockdown restrictions absent a vaccine or a clear-cut treatment for the disease that has killed more than 60,000 in the United States, a number of public health experts have said Trump is painting an overly rosy picture, and that the country’s underfunded patchwork of contact tracing systems isn’t ready to handle the challenge of a pandemic.

“We don’t have the scale that we need — we don’t have even close to the scale we need,” Crystal Watson, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told NBC News.

She was one of the lead authors on a study that found, in estimate, the nation will need at least 100,000 contact tracers and $3.6 billion in funding to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Watson said technology can make contact tracers more effective — Google and Apple made headlines with efforts to team up and build a contact tracing app but it doesn’t eliminate the need for a massive army of public health workers.

Two former federal public health officials — Andy Slavitt, who oversaw Medicare and Medicaid in the Obama administration, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who headed up the Food and Drug Administration under Trump — have called on Congress to allocate $12 billion that states could use to hire up to 180,000 contact tracers as part of a larger, $46 billion public health investment proposal. Dr. Tom Frieden, a former head of the CDC, has estimated the country needs 300,000 contact tracers.

“This is the major tool we have to control the spread — it’s what allows us to open up safely,” Watson said. Without it, she said, big surges are likely.

“It’s possible that because of that, we’ll have to go back under stay-at-home orders,” she said.

States take the lead, but major obstacles such as scaling and funding remain

The Trump administration has said states should lead on combating the coronavirus, including testing and tracing, and experts agree that contact tracing is best done by local health officials.

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

But tight state and local budgets pose challenges and states’ capabilities and plans pale in comparison to the need identified by experts.

In an interview, Slavitt estimated that there are just 7,000 contact tracing employees in the country right now.

“Testing without contact tracing doesn’t do any good — it’s not going to keep the economy open,” he added. “The reality is you need to do both.”

The CDC has 600 public health officials working with states on tracing, according to NPR, and plans to add 650 more. The news organization reached out to the 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia to evaluate the country’s contact tracing workforce. According to NPR, 41 states and D.C. responded, revealing a current total of 7,602 contact tracing workers and an expectation for that number to surge to 36,587 overall amid a hiring push.

Only North Dakota currently has enough contact tracers to meet the state’s need, according to NPR’s analysis.

People enjoy the weather near Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier on April 21, 2020 in Brooklyn, N.Y.Jeenah Moon / Getty Images

“It’s not rocket science to do it on an individual basis, the problem is the scale. Yesterday, we tested 4,681 people who were positive,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during his Thursday news briefing. “How do you now communicate with 4,681 people, trace back all the people they’ve been in contact with over the last 14 days — close contact — and contact those people? That is an overwhelming scale to an operation that has never existed before.”

Cuomo said he needs a baseline of 6,400 to 17,000 tracers for his state, and outlined a plan to begin building this “tracing army” from existing city and state employees, as well as hiring new people.

“And by the way, we need it tomorrow,” he said.

Logistical issues that come with large-scale tracing aside, both Slavitt and Watson said the federal government would need to put some serious money behind contact tracing, as states are unlikely to be able to foot the bill.

The latest coronavirus aid bill signed by the president last week earmarked $11 billion for states’ testing and tracing efforts, but Slavitt said the bulk of it would likely be spent on testing. He and Gottlieb, who resigned from the Trump administration last March citing a desire to spend more time with his family,are talking with the White House and briefing congressional committees about their proposal.

“We’ve got to get out of this cycle of being behind the pandemic and chasing it and get ahead on it,” Slavitt said.

A patchwork approach will yield mixed results

A variety of initiatives and methods are underway in states and cities, highlighting big differences in both budgets and strategy.

Massachusetts is hiring armies of contact tracers, while Washington state is reportedly building a contact tracing team with public health employees, volunteers and National Guard members. Utah, North Dakota and South Dakota have launched initial versions of contact tracing apps. Michigan announced it would train volunteers to do the tracing, before canceling a company contracted to organize and coordinate the work when political ties to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer were noticed. West Virginia is also hoping to use volunteers, while Texas is reportedly offering $17-22 an hour for the work.

In New York, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg is heading up a contact tracing effort backed by his own philanthropic organization that will benefit his state, and, he said Thursday, develop a broader “playbook” that will be made publicly available.

And while Bloomberg’s money and charity are fueling a system that includes New York City, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told MSNBC this month that her city doesn’t have the budget to fund a massive contact tracing operation.

“Like so many entities across this country, we are facing a budget shortfall in the city of Atlanta,” she said in an interview.

Experts note that contact tracing efforts can easily be undermined if neighboring areas are not tracing and containing contacts as aggressively. The concept is both time- and resource-intensive.

“Contact tracing is a tried and true public health intervention; it’s been around for decades,” Josh Michaud, an associate director for global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said. Decades ago, he worked as a contact tracer in Baltimore, primarily trying to stop the spread of syphilis.

He explained that a contact tracer is given the information of a positive case and is then tasked with interviewing that person about their contacts.

“For coronavirus, you’d be asking them, ‘Where have you been for the last 14 days? Who have you been in close contact with — within six feet for more than 10 minutes?’ You can get a lot of people who meet the definition of close contact or almost nobody,” he said.

Then, the contact tracer reaches out to those people to see if they’re experiencing symptoms.

“If you do find another case,” he said, “then that’s a whole new investigation.”

Read More