Fly swatters and COVID coins

WASHINGTON (AFP) – With less than a month until the United States (US) elections the race for the White House has thrown up a new trove of tidbits and odd moments, including a rush on fly swatters and a new presidential coin.

USD350,000 in 24 hours. Democratic contender Joe Biden’s campaign rode the coat tails of a housefly that settled on the smooth white hair of US Vice President Mike Pence as he debated Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris in Utah on Wednesday.

The fly’s presence, undetected by Pence but spotted by thousands watching the debate, triggered a landslide of jokes and comments on social media and provided the Biden campaign with a real opportunity to cash in, by immediately flogging “Truth Over Flies” fly-swatters online for USD10 a pop. The swatters sold out within a day.

“I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking,” said actor Mark Ruffalo in a video posted to anti-corruption site RepresentUS.

Along with comedians Chris Rock and Amy Schumer and model Naomi Campbell, Ruffalo stripped down to warn Americans about the danger of so-called “naked ballots” – mail-in voting slips that will not be counted unless both the envelopes provided are used.

A cart takes part in parade supporting former United States (US) vice president Joe Biden that caravanned to the Sumter County Elections office to cast their ballots in The Villages, Florida. PHOTO: AP

“Follow ALL instructions carefully. If it says use two envelopes, use two envelopes. If it says use a black pen, use a black pen. Not funny. But absolutely essential,” the campaign warned.

Perhaps prematurely, since US President Donald Trump had not yet returned from the Walter Reed military hospital, the White House gift shop started advertising a commemorative coin bearing the logo “Trump Beats COVID” on Monday.

Even though the president has since returned to the Oval Office, his doctors have shied away from backing his own pronouncement that he is cured.

“We knew our President would find a way to knockout COVID in early rounds of his battle,” said the gift shop on its website, which is not directly affiliated with the White House.

Fans were invited to pre-order the coin, featuring a motif of superheroes, for the price of USD100.

Even as the president claimed to be defeating the disease that has infected more than seven million Americans, and killed more than 200,000 of them, his staff and entourage were testing positive in droves.

To the extent that the Democratic mayor of Washington DC, set up a coronavirus testing and contact-tracing site just outside the White House, which has become its own small epicentre for the deadly virus.

The city said it had set up the site because of “the growing number of positive COVID cases reported from staff working in and near the White House (…) and our understanding that there has been limited contact tracing performed to date”.