Coronavirus Global Dashboard Coronavirus Posts Archive - SupChina

COVID-19 Global Dashboard

Track coronavirus daily news, updates, and top links from around the world.

SupChina is a New York-based, China-focused news, media, and business services platform. We started out covering COVID-19 given our daily coverage of China, where the virus first emerged. (Check out our coverage of COVID-19 from the very beginning.)

But we are now producing daily and breaking-news updates on the virus not just related to China, but for the U.S. and the rest of the world, too.

We're not sure how long the coronavirus will remain newsworthy or relevant to our daily lives, but we'll be sending out updates for as long as it is necessary.

Email editors@supchina.com with questions, comments, concerns, tips, and anything else.

COVID-19 Statistics

See data for all countries at Johns Hopkins Center

COVID-19 Cases

COVID-19 Deaths

Worldwide
858,785
China
82,290
USA
189,035
Worldwide
42,151
China
3,310
USA
3,900
Last Updated: March 31, 2020 11:12 pm

Confirmed Cases by Region (Top 10)

189,035
U.S.
105,792
Italy
95,923
Spain
82,290
Mainland China
71,808
Germany
52,836
France
44,605
Iran
25,481
U.K.
12,775
Belgium
12,667
Netherlands

Latest COVID-19 News

April 1, 2020

The first delivery of N95 face masks to New York City hospitals took place today with Jess Ting of Mount Sinai Hospital and Nancy Paljevic of Mount Sinai Beth Israel. Donate today, we’ll match every dollar!

Hi readers,

Everyone is a vector of the disease. I’m a vector of the disease. Every time I touch a door handle, pick up any object in the grocery store, or breath in too soon after someone walks by — I might get the disease. Or almost worse — I might give someone else the disease. It’s difficult to escape the feeling that everyone is just a carrier and a pathway for this thing to spread.

Last week, the Trader Joe’s near my apartment in New York City was shut because some of their team members tested positive for COVID-19. The sign in the door said they’d reopen sometime soon but provided no further details.

Grocery stores are probably the second-most likely place outside of hospitals to become hotbeds for the disease due primarily to the fact that they’re almost the only thing open, plus the fact that there’s no way to avoid brushing alongside people and touching items that have been handled by multiple people in a short period of time.

It left me wondering, “What happens if all the grocery stores close? Or worse, what happens if the grocery store employees are all sick, but they keep working?! What happens if garbage collectors all fall ill, or just walk off the job? What if the police fall ill in even greater numbers than they already are?”

In today’s increasingly app-based, desk-bound existence it is easy to take for granted the complex webs of interdependence on which modern society relies. If any part of the system goes down — healthcare, food supply, waste removal, telecommunications, transportation — the whole thing stops working, no matter where you are on the socioeconomic ladder.

I spent the afternoon today going into ground zero for COVID-19 in NYC when I met with some doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital, to whom we delivered the first batch of personal protective equipment from our ongoing fundraiser.

The cognitive dissonance of the experience was very high. Helping each other is what humans do — we can’t survive without each other. But in the case of a pandemic, getting near to other people is literally what we’re all avoiding.

Onto the news.

– Bob Guterma
SupChina COO


The U.S. situation is worsening for many parts of society

Protective gear in the national stockpile is nearly depleted, DHS officials say.

  • A nurse on the front lines in Chicago tried to wear her own N95 to work while caring for COVID patients (when it wasn’t supplied for her) & she was told by management she would not be allowed to. She quit her job.
  • Frightened doctors face off with hospitals over rules on protective gear
  • Meanwhile, there might actually be a lot of protective equipment in warehouses in the U.S., but people can’t agree on price

How companies treat their employees in the crisis will define their brands for decades.

There have been over 650 reports of discrimination and violence against Asians related to COVID-19  — in just one week.

Many new york coronavirus patients are young, surprising doctors

Food banks struggle as demand explodes thanks to coronavirus layoffs.

The list of those who won’t get a $1,200 stimulus check is growing — and includes some surprising groups.

China’s COVID numbers are fake

Bloomberg says that “the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House” that China has intentionally under-reported both total cases and deaths from COVID-19. This is according to three anonymous officials.

They did not reveal details but “the thrust, they said, is that China’s public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete.” Two of them “said the report concludes that China’s numbers are fake.”

What does this mean? We hardly required intelligence services to know that China’s numbers are unreliable, but this news may herald a renewed effort by the U.S. government to hold China culpable.

Finally, does China really have COVID-19 under control? Reports such as this from Sixth Tone suggest not:

“Just as China was enthusiastically opening up for business after a weekslong shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities have asked the country’s tourist attractions and entertainment venues to close their doors again.”

Around the world in 30 seconds

  • France struggles as it wages “war” against COVID-19 (Forbes)
  • WHO says coronavirus outbreak in europe may be approaching peak (Bloomberg)
  • Coronavirus has started a censorship pandemic in Turkey, Hungary, Thailand and around the world (Foreign Policy)
  • Pandemic spreads in Latin America as cases pass 20,000 (CNA)
  • Iran says U.S. sanctions are taking lives. U.S. officials disagree. (NYT)

Cure and vaccine radar

  • Virginia-based oncology drug maker begins testing its drug for use against COVID-19 (Yahoo Finance)
  • France Sanctions Drug After Nearly All Patients Recover COVID-19 (CBS News)
  • Chinese scientists on hunt for coronavirus treatment find ‘effective’ antibodies (NY Post)

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Take care, and don’t forget to wash your hands!

March 31, 2020

morgue space

Credit…Justin Lane/EPA, via Shutterstock

Hi readers,

The subject of today’s email is statistics. We’ve all been reading and thinking about statistics more than most of us have since high school. Numbers such as case count, level of contagion (“R0 factor”), and fatality rate have kept us up at night.

Most of the numbers we read in the newspapers are accurate to the extent that they’re the “official” numbers, but they’re full of statistical landmines that basically mean we only know what we know, but we don’t know what we don’t know.

This is particularly important as the Trump administration starts to narrow in on some specific numerical predictions for the pandemic. Today, Dr. Fauci predicted that 100,000-240,000 people are likely to die, calling this “our real number.” It’s a grim number and almost impossible to believe, but it’s also a lot better than the 2.2 million deaths in the U.S. we were hearing about just 2 weeks ago.

So what numbers can we count on? Is Fauci’s “real” number, a real number?

In speaking with a government agency employee who is on the team responsible for the mathematical modeling that New York State is using to forecast the outbreak, I was told,

The case count means nothing — there is a vast population that has had SARS-COV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) that we won’t know about until one day when this is all over and we can go back and do antibody testing on the entire U.S. population at random. Right now, the only numbers to watch are the number of people hospitalized by the disease, the number of those people who get moved to intensive care, and the number of those people who die.

These are the numbers that affect any one individual’s chance of surviving, because if you get sick, and then you get very sick, and then there are no ventilators available, that’s when you have a real problem.”

I thought it’d be worth unpacking her statements in tonight’s email.

Before jumping into it — don’t forget to donate or forward to a friend our ongoing frontline medical workers protective equipment fundraiser.

We’re past 50% of our goal, but we need your help to get all the way there. The first boxes of N95 masks actually already arrived, and we’ll be delivering them to two NYC hospitals tomorrow. Tune in again tomorrow for photos.

– Bob Guterma
SupChina COO


The number of COVID cases is totally wrong

There is a huge amount of attention being paid in the mainstream media to the number of reported cases of COVID-19. It is the focal point of most news headlines, and data-focused tools put the visual focus on the case count. The problem is that the case count is totally wrong.

The reason why it is wrong is because most people with COVID-19 show mild or even no symptoms, never get tested, never enter a hospital or doctor’s office, and therefore never end up in an official count of COVID-19 cases.

According to the U.S. government-set standards for who should and should not get tested, only a small percentage of actual COVID-19 cases will ever be tested and formally identified.

In the world of statistical mathematics, this situation is a classical example of “selection bias,” whereby the source of the data is pre-selected in a way that skews the data. It’d be like asking drunk kids at a college party whether they want pizza or salads and using their answer as an indication of what all people everywhere like better. (Actually, in this case you’d probably get the same result no matter how many people you ask, but you get the point.)

The only people taking COVID-19 tests are people with a significantly high chance of having COVID-19, thus skewing the numbers higher. The only way to get a clear and accurate count of COVID-19 cases will be to test the entire population at random. In the U.S., that would mean testing people at random in all 50 states, in cities and rural areas, whether they are sick or healthy, and whether they have any reason to believe they have — or at any point have had — COVID-19 or not.

+ Up to 25% of infected people might show no symptoms at all.

+ This long but worthwhile article dives deep on selection bias in COVID-19 testing.

+ So does this WSJ op-ed from a week ago.

+ The President of Turkmenistan banned the word “coronavirus.” The country now has no cases. How about that for statistics?

It’s the antibodies, man

But wait: If you want to know how many people have had COVID-19, you actually cannot test only for COVID-19.

If someone had COVID-19 a month ago, showed no symptoms, and then got better — they would test negative now and never enter the official case count. To identify all people who currently have or have in the past had COVID-19, you need to do antibody testing, which tests whether an individual’s immune system has developed the antibodies that fought off the original infection. Only then can we identify the true prevalence of COVID-19.

Fortunately, today the FDA approved an antibody test that will be able to test for current AND past (i.e. recovered) cases of COVID-19. This is a game-changer, and provided the test proves effective in the field, it will allow governments around the world to get a clear and accurate measurement of COVID-19 prevalence in their populations.

The things we can count

In the thick of the crisis, the case count doesn’t matter. The only thing that government decision makers need to do is ensure that there are enough of two things: hospital beds for those who need to be hospitalized and ventilators for those who need intensive care.

This is why New York has established thousands of new beds and intensive care units at field hospitals in the Javits Convention Center, Central Park, and Pier 90, where the U.S. navy hospital ship USNS Comfort docked yesterday, and why governors and mayors across the country are worried about ensuring their own capacity without enough help from Washington.

+ Sadly, there is one other thing government officials need to ensure, and that is morgue and cemetery space. The photos from New York are starting to look eerily similar to those out of Italy just a week ago.

Business as usual

  • 9 charts showing what coronavirus is doing to the economy (Vox)
  • Dow closes out the worst first quarter in history: March 31, 2020 (CNN)

Other U.S. headlines

Note: ALL of the below headlines are the exact same as headlines coming out of China months ago. At that time many U.S. politicians, pundits, and news outlets described what was happening in China in the most judgemental and derogatory of tones, averring that nothing similar could or would ever happen in the U.S. Welcome to COVID times.

  • Hospitals tell doctors they’ll be fired if they speak out about lack of gear (Bloomberg)
  • Some states such as Florida and Texas have ramped up travel restrictions and border checks on people coming from other states. The closing of interstate borders is being discussed for the first time in living memory. It may even violate the constitution. (Vox)
  • Walmart to begin taking temperature of every employee prior to their shifts (ABC News)
  • Flattening the curve may be working (in places where social distancing was started early) (Politico)
  • Justice department looking into senator’s stock sell-off (NPR)
  • The U.S. government should disclose how it’s using location data to fight the coronavirus (The Verge)

Around the world in 30 seconds

  • Italy reports lowest daily coronavirus case count in 2 weeks as death toll tops 11,000 (Democracy Now)
  • Asian countries see that success containing the virus can be tenuous, a worrisome sign (NYT)
  • As pandemic spreads, the developing world looks like the next target (NPR)
  • Ethiopia postpones general elections because of coronavirus (Bloomberg)

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March 30, 2020

nyc response 1.1

Infographic by John Oquist

Hi readers,

For any of you who tried to donate to our hospital worker face mask fundraiser last week but found the donate button disbaled, we are truly sorry for the inconvenience. A glitch in the payment processor’s app took some time over the weekend to be resolved.

With that said, the problem has been resolved and we’re about 50% of the way to our goal. We will match every dollar up to the first $25,000 — please help us raise as much money as possible.

We’ve already made a batch of purchases together with our partner organizations and deliveries will start taking place as early as tomorrow. We’ll be sure to update you as this all takes place in the coming days and weeks.

→ Click here to donate

In New York, we’re entering week three of the work-from-home lockdown and week two of the city-wide closure of most businesses and non-essential activities.

It’s almost starting to seem normal, but something tells me that “normal feeling” will change soon enough as new and harsher realities set in across the U.S. and around the world.

Thanks for reading, and send us any stories you want to share or see covered at editors@supchina.com.

– Bob Guterma, SupChina COO


The economy will get a lot worse this week, and next week, and the week after that

U.S. stock markets closed up by more than 3%, after rising more than 12% last week. Under normal circumstances, that would sound like awesome news.

Under COVID-19 circumstances, it sounds a bit like the string quartet playing as the Titanic took on water.

According to the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, up to 47 million Americans may lose their jobs in the coming weeks and months. That would put unemployment at about 32%.

The big picture: Maximum unemployment at the depths of the Great Depression was just 24%.

Despite this grim statistic, the same St. Louis Fed economist went on to say that we could bounce back in record time, “if we play our cards right and keep everything intact, then everyone will go back to work and everything will be fine.”

Heard on the street: SupChina spoke with board members of two large, publicly traded firms, and they both had the same two points to make.

  1. Joblessness will not be limited to service industry or middle-income jobs. Their companies will be letting go of management and executives — lawyers, computer programmers, marketers, salespeople, operations — in record numbers.
  2. And, it will all start to happen this week and next. It took large companies the past two weeks just to quantify how deep their cuts will have to be and consider how to carry out the record-setting headcount reductions from a legal and logistical perspective.

The economic carnage outside the financial markets in the “real economy” is going to pick up speed this week and next, and markets will likely follow.

New York on wartime footing

New York City is the epicenter of the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak, with about 40% of the country’s cases and more than 35% of its deaths.

It’s not as bad as Italy here by any means, but things are getting worse, fast.

  • Total COVID-19 deaths in NYC topped 1,200 on Monday, up more than 33% from just the day before.
  • More than 900 NYC police officers have contracted the disease, and three have died.
  • In a trend that is sadly very likely to repeat itself across the nation, nursing homes and prisons are showing signs of contagion in their close-quarters populations.

But New York is also the city that is most capable of rapidly designing creative solutions and deploying resources to respond to the crisis.

  • FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian humanitarian aid organization, are building a 68-bed field hospital in the middle of Manhattan’s Central Park. The tents will house temperature-controlled respiratory care units complete with ventilators located just across the street from Mount Sinai Hospital.
  • New York State, led by Governor Andrew Cuomo, is considering building more field hospitals in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island, as well as looking at the possibility of converting hotels or college dormitories into medical facilities.
  • The state already set up more than 1,000 beds in the Javits Convention Center last week.
  • The Federal government sent the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort to dock at New York’s Pier 90, providing 1,000 beds and perhaps most importantly: a full crew of doctors, nurses, cooks, and other support staff.

What it’s like on the ground: Writing to you from New York City tonight, there is no feeling of panic in the streets. The city feels well-run and safe. But, there is a palpable feeling of uncertainty regarding the economic future of every single person you see, including one’s self, as well as a feeling of sadness and mystery at how so many people could be dying in rooms tucked out of sight yet just a short distance away.

China updates

Just over a week ago, Trump was referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.” Today, Trump was singing a notably friendlier tune towards China in his various public statements and appearances.

It’s probably because he needed China to not block the export of more than 80 tons of medical equipment that was flown from Shanghai to New York today — the first of 22 similar flights that will take place in the coming week as the U.S. stocks up on medical equipment that is predominantly made in China and that is in exceedingly short supply everywhere else in the world, including the U.S.

China’s president, Xi Jinping, was seen touring the country today not wearing a face mask for the first time in months. The message from the Communist Party of China continues to be one of economic optimism and motivation, although there has been a bit more official attention paid to “asymptomatic cases” of COVID-19 and concerns about a second wave of infection.

Meanwhile, much of China’s altruism in helping European, African, and other nations confront their COVID-19 crises has backfired, as reports of faulty Chinese-made test kits and personal protective equipment have yet again cast doubt on the reliability of China as a partner in times of need.

Around the world in 30 seconds

  • Italy sees the smallest number of new cases in almost two weeks, and the WHO says EU outbreak may be peaking (Bloomberg)
  • Rich Europeans Flee Virus for Second Homes (NYT)
    • As we pointed out last week, many wealthy New Yorkers prefer to spend their work-from-home days in sunnier climates, agreeing to self-quarantine immediately after a quick trip to the grocery store and a few important errands.
  • Sweden bucks the trend, avoiding harsh economic shutdown measures (Forbes)
  • ‘Coronavirus could wipe us out’: indigenous South Americans blockade villages (The Guardian

Cure and vaccine radar

  • FDA authorizes widespread use of unproven drugs to treat coronavirus, saying possible benefit outweighs risk (Washington Post)
  • Coronavirus vaccine: when will it be ready? (The Guardian)
  • Johnson & Johnson to Begin Human Trials of Covid-19 Vaccine by September (WSJ)
  • Clinical trials on coronavirus drugs may take only months, researcher says (NBC)

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March 27, 2020

Photographs by Fabio Bucciarelli / NYT

Hi everyone,

If you’re wondering how the whole COVID-19 affair ends, this thought-provoking piece in The Atlantic outlines some of the possibilities. It is a long read, but worth it. In short: COVID-19 will either result in Trump’s reelection and an escalation of his “America First policy” and severing ties with the rest of the world, or in his and his policies’ utter destruction and a re-embracing of our modern, global world.

If you don’t have energy to think about tomorrow and just want to know what happened today, four things are on my mind tonight:

  • Italy is suffering more than any country right now, but if you’re like me then it’s hard to internalize the reality of what they are facing when it seems so far away. But this New York Times immersive photo documentary made it real for me.
  • Sadly, the U.S. may not be far behind. The country has the most reported cases of COVID-19 in the world, and the outbreak continues to accelerate rapidly. New York City doctors are saying that it’s “worse than 9/11” — the phone calls and the patients simply do not stop coming in.
  • China is showing signs of slipping back into the grips of the pandemic, even as the Chinese government has been celebrating many days of near-zero new cases. After pushing for business to return to normal in a bid to save its economy, now the government is re-closing movie theatres and barring entry to the country by any non-citizens. These measures come as reports surface of a potential “second wave” in China, as well as nearby Hong Kong and Japan. If China shows signs of backsliding and loses control of their outbreak even after such herculean efforts to control it, it would be an indication of the inevitability of society-wide spread of COVID-19 in all countries.
  • In Iran, hundreds of people have died after ingesting methanol (pure, industrial-grade alcohol) because internet-based rumors claimed that drinking alcohol would cure or prevent COVID-19. But in a country where drinking alcohol is illegal, most people don’t know anything about alcohol and turned to bootleggers to find some, with catastrophic results. Disinformation is real, and it can literally kill.

A way to help

If we only worry about ourselves, we’re alone in this. If we each do one thing for someone else, we’re all in it together.

We have launched a fundraiser to help U.S. hospital workers who are short on personal protective equipment such as face masks. More than 200 U.S. cities have reported such shortages and are seeking donations.

We have already raised $8,000 from 44 donors. Our goal is $25,000 and we will match all donations 1:1 through our non-profit arm. Please help us get to $25,000 — every single dollar will go towards personal protective equipment for frontline medical workers, and we will deliver the equipment in our own SupChina vehicles. No markup, no overhead, 100% of your donations will reach people in need.

Click here to learn more, donate, or to share with friends and family.

Don’t needlessly burden the system

I live in New York City, and on the way into my apartment tonight, I noticed three police cars and two ambulances that had been posted there all afternoon. I had a brief chat with them, which went as follows:

Me: Are there truly so many calls coming in that it’s just easier for you to keep your trucks running here instead of at the garage, or are you sort of here “just in case,” or to reassure us by your visible presence?

Medics: There have already been 5,000 calls today, and it’s only 7 pm. Normally, we get 3,000 calls in an entire, busy day through midnight. Many people are saying it’s worse than 9/11. We’ve had record number of 911 calls today and yesterday.

Me: Do all those people truly require emergency care?

Medics: No, that’s the worst part. Only a small portion of the people require a trip to the hospital. Many don’t have COVID-19, and even the ones who do — if you’re not a severe case, it’s better for you and everyone, for the whole system, if you just stay home, isolate, and take care of yourself the way you would with the normal flu. And if you don’t have COVID-19 and you go to the hospital just because you’re worried, you’re almost guaranteed to get it once you’re there. Basically, only actually severe cases should call 911, but many more people are because they’re scared.

Key takeaway: Every unnecessary call to 911 or visit to a hospital puts yourself and others at risk.

Other U.S. news

  • Trump invokes Defense Production Act to force General Motors to produce ventilators (Forbes)
  • Trump’s forceful move regarding ventilators comes just one day after he and his coronavirus task force downplayed the urgency surrounding ventilators (Fox News and RCP)
  • Trump also signed into effect the $2T stimulus package that congress (finally) passed today (NYT)
  • Despite the deal getting signed, stocks gave up about 4% after their recent three-day gains, but all in all still had their best week since 1938 (CNBC)

Around the world

  • Africa is bracing for a head-on collision with coronavirus (Foreign Policy)
  • Italy has harrowing day with nearly 1,000 new deaths, and the outbreak there is still far from peaking (Forbes)
  • As coronavirus hits Latin America, expect serious and enduring effects. (Brookings Institution)

Cure and vaccine radar

  • Less than a month after banning the wildlife markets that caused the first case of COVID-19, China’s National Health Commission is promoting bear bile as coronavirus treatment (NatGeo)
  • Four Vaccine Types That Could Stop the Coronavirus, Explained (Sixth Tone)
  • FBI Arrests Actor Who Claimed He Had a Coronavirus Cure to His Millions of Instagram Followers (Time)

March 26, 2020

America is now the world’s COVID-19 epicenter

pasted image 0 24

Map of reported COVID-19 cases from Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Hi there reader,

Global cases of COVID-19 were up more than 20% in just the past 24 hours. The case count in the U.S. went up by more than 33%, due largely to rapidly improving testing regimens.

If you look at the charts at the bottom of this email or at the John’s Hopkins data aggregation site, you’ll see they basically go straight up as the number of cases and deaths around the world show no sign of decelerating.

Hospitals around the world — in Italy, Spain, and perhaps soon to be the U.S. — are being overwhelmed.

In the U.S., many hospitals have been unable to procure enough face masks and other equipment due to budget constraints or procedural hurdles, leaving frontline medical workers more vulnerable to infection. If frontline workers fall ill en masse, it’s a worst case scenario — the system won’t be able to function.

We have started a fundraiser to secure additional purchases of masks and other protective equipment, shipped from trusted companies in China, that we will hand-deliver to hospitals in New York City. Currently, New York has a full 50% of all U.S. cases of COVID-19. When the masks arrive, if New York hospitals have caught up and have all the equipment they need, we will immediately send the supplies to the worst-hit region in the U.S. as of that time.

Through next Friday, April 3, SupChina will match all donations 1:1 up to $25,000 (for a total of $50,000) through our nonprofit arm.

Click here to read more and help out — and thank you for any help you can give.

America is now the world’s COVID-19 epicenter

In the past 24 hours, the U.S. became the global epicenter of the pandemic with more cases reported than any other country — 85,505 to be exact.

Despite this, Trump is still more focused on figuring out when the country can relax social distancing and get back to work, according to his official letter to state governors today.

The good news, as we pointed out yesterday, is that Trump actually isn’t the one with the legal authority to open or shut most of the economy, so his decisions will be tempered by those of state- and local-level officials.

However, a lack of more robust federal action — for example, the decision to not ground all domestic flights — is making it likely that the situation will get radically worse across the U.S.

  • On Monday, more than 190 flights flew from the New York area to Florida carrying thousands of wealthier New Yorkers who would prefer to spend their work from home days somewhere a bit warmer. (Tampa Bay Times)
  • New outbreak hot spots are growing in parts of the U.S. midwest, including Chicago and Detroit. (NYT)

U.S. markets and economy exhibit cognitive dissonance

U.S. unemployment numbers for the week came out, and it was the worst single week since record keeping began in 1967, with 3.28 million people claiming joblessness in just seven days. The worst prior week on record was just a fifth as bad — 695,000 claims for the week ending October 2, 1982.

Wall Street economists predict that the worst is yet to come, with second quarter GDP figures plummeting by 20 to 30 percent.

Despite all this, the stock markets recorded their best three days in a row since 1931, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining more than 20% in the past three sessions.

Yesterday, before today’s ~6% rise, the Wall Street Journal was already warning that market exuberance appears to be pricing in an optimistic (read: fast) ending to the coronavirus crisis.

The Wall Street Journal’s warning, in a nutshell, is that there is no real-world indication that the crisis has a fast end coming, and that markets appear set to surge and plummet in response to every bit of good or bad news during the coming weeks.

So what drove markets to surge higher these past few days? Well, the U.S. Senate finally passed the $2.2 trillion economic relief bill that they’d been haggling over for days. The House of Representatives still needs to approve it, but House leader Nancy Pelosi seemed optimistic, even saying at one point, “We can go bigger.”

Our take: No one at SupChina is a stockpicker or a financial analyst. But we read a lot of news, and the wildly divergent information from businesses, individuals, politicians of differing political views, and the financial markets indicates that the soup of the day for the foreseeable future is pure, unadulterated volatility. Huge daily gyrations in the markets are likely to persist through the coming weeks and there probably isn’t much sense in trying to figure out if we’ve found the bottom and it’s safe to plunge in, or if you should try to get out at temporary intraday highs.

Around the world in 30 seconds

  • Germany still has the lowest COVID-19 death rate of any country, but they are preparing for the possibility that they’ll have to ration access to ventilators and have issued clear guidelines on how they’ll prioritize patients. (Deutsche Welle)
  • China has suspended “the entry into China by foreign nationals holding visas or residence permits” (Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs). This may be an eminently sensible move: After all, most countries have enacted entry restrictions. But it is hard to forget this, from early February: China lashes out at countries restricting travel over virus (behind a Bloomberg porous paywall).
  • Brazil remains locked in a standoff between “job killing” state governors who want more action on COVID-19 and a Trump-esque president who continues to downplay the risks. (Reuters)
  • “More than 510,000 people around the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19…The number of coronavirus cases in Europe topped 250,000, more than half of which are in hard-hit Italy and Spain. Spain registered 655 fatalities from coronavirus – down from more than 700 on Wednesday, while Italy reported another 712 deaths.” (Al Jazeera)

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March 25, 2020

Dear readers,

We here at SupChina have launched a fundraiser to raise money for face masks and other equipment for under-resourced hospitals across the U.S. We will match donations dollar for dollar for the first $25,000.

Hospitals in the U.S. are running woefully low on personal protective equipment for frontline medical workers, who are now contracting COVID-19 in record numbers. China manufactures more than 50% of the world’s face masks and other protective equipment, but importing them into the U.S. quickly can be a challenge for large organizations.

Many hospitals lack the budget and others have draconian state-run purchasing rules that prohibit them from acting quickly to purchase more equipment.

The fact is that they’re unable to act or are being forced to wait, and hospitals across the U.S. are actively seeking donations.

We have spoken with trusted companies in China who already supply U.S. hospital systems, and have found that there are masks that can be shipped with no delay.

SupChina’s mission statement is to serve as a gateway for understanding between the U.S. and China and through our various partner organizations, including the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia University, its founder, David Ho, the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce in the U.S., and the U.S.-based Committee of 100, we have secured access to large quantities of face masks and other personal protective equipment from China.

We are now raising money to purchase materials and our team will personally deliver these face masks and other supplies to New York hospitals. New York is not only where our headquarters are and where most of our team lives, but it is also among the hardest-hit cities in the U.S., with more than 50% of all U.S. cases of COVID-19 to date.

Time is of the essence. Donate by next Friday, April 3rd, and SupChina will match each donation 1:1 up to $25,000 (for a total of $50,000) through our nonprofit arm. 

–> Click here to donate now

100% of the money will go straight into the purchase of masks — no overhead, no fees for us. We’ll even be delivering the masks in our own vehicles.

When the masks arrive, if New York hospitals have all the equipment they need, we will immediately send the supplies to the worst-hit region in the U.S. as of that time.
There is no shortage of news today, so let’s get on with it.

Thanks for reading, and write us at editors@supchina.com if you have questions, news tips, or feedback.

The Editors

 

The U.S. remains in financial purgatory

As of the time this email was sent at 9 pm Eastern Time on Wednesday night, U.S. senators are still working out the details of the $2 trillion financial rescue package that congress has been trying to pass for days now. Indications are that the deal won’t get passed tonight, and New York State governor, Andrew Cuomo, and New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio, are particularly unhappy with the proposed deal.

Despite all the uncertainty on the policy front, U.S. stock markets nonetheless saw their first two-consecutive-day gain in over a month. Some experts think the market may have bottomed out, but most of the “real economy” impact of the pandemic has yet to fully come into view.

On the health-front, New York is reporting potential signs that social distancing might be working, but Wednesday was still the deadliest day in the U.S. since the outbreak began to spread.

Meanwhile Trump is already speaking of an “Easter revival” whereby the economy could be getting back to normal by April 12th. While some say this is necessary to prevent an economic doomsday, others speculate Trump’s focus on the economy is driven less by compassion for others and more by his own 2020 electoral ambitions.

Fortunately, due to America’s federal republic system of government, most of the power to actually open or close many parts of the economy resides at the state- and local-level. Trump doesn’t have much authority to enact his revival plan.

Many state governors are already rejecting Trump’s plan, and a growing number of schools are preparing to extend their closure — through the end of the school year.

But some actual experts say the outbreak in the U.S. could at least peak by Easter, if not actually on the wane.

Three weeks from now is also when the first direct payments to individuals may arrive from the government, in a country where many households don’t have enough cash to survive that long in an emergency — and where many are already 2 weeks into a reduction or outright lack of wages.

Europe continues to get hit hard

Spain and Italy continue to face the worst death rates in the world, with both countries reporting more deaths than China. Italy reports 7,503 deaths on about 74,000 cases, while Spain is reporting 3,647 deaths on about 50,000 cases.

Sadly, France may not be far behind, recording 231 deaths — a 21% increase over the day before — in just one day.

Neighboring Germany, however, has the world’s lowest COVID-19 death rate by a very, very wide margin.

It’s unclear which reality will prevail across the continent — that of Italy and Spain, or that of Germany. Spain’s case count doubling roughly every four days and European nations collectively make up more than half of the top 20 countries affected by COVID-19 as measured by number of cases.

China updates

  • COVID-19 fuels domestic violence in China (SupChina)
    • For the record, the same problem is happening in the U.S. and elsewhere (NYT)
  • Stargazing Before the Apocalypse: an essay about science in the time of coronavirus (SupChina)
  • Covid-19 epidemic slams China’s 2020 government revenues and budget (Caixin)
  • China retailers implement massive sales and price cuts to stimulate post-COVID-19 buying (Reuters)

Around the world in 30 seconds

Cure and vaccine radar

  • The drug Trump had mentioned publicly as being successful against COVID-19 has been shown to be no more effective than regular care without the drug (Bloomberg)
  • The Israeli health ministry has approved experimental treatments for the disease (Jerusalem Post)
  • NBC did a roundup of the drugs currently undergoing trials or testing, but no major breakout successes yet (NBC)

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March 24, 2020

Photo by visuals on Unsplash 

Dear readers,

First we want to bring your attention to an interview with David Ho, the renowned AIDS researcher who is now trying to fight COVID-19. It is the best, most understandable summary of all the factual, scientific information we’ve seen on COVID-19 to date. (Note: He was a speaker at our 2019 NEXTChina Conference last November, and you can see an interview we did with him at that time on the state of U.S.-China affairs.)

After yesterday’s note about how to help, we wanted to announce our own campaign:

Many hospitals across the U.S. are running low on or are already out of face masks and other personal protective equipment for nurses, doctors, and other front-lines medical workers. Meanwhile, China manufactures almost 50% of the world supply of such things.

As a gateway between China and the Western world, and a New York-based company, SupChina is going to procure face masks from China, and deliver them ourselves to hospitals in the U.S. You may ask yourselves why the hospitals don’t just buy these things directly. The fact is that for whatever reasons, they’re unable to or are being forced to wait, and hospitals across the U.S. are actively seeking donations. We have spoken with trusted companies in China who already supply U.S. hospital systems, and have found that there are masks that can be shipped with no delay.

We will be providing you a way to donate in tomorrow’s newsletter, and we will match every dollar donated up to $25,000 (for a total of $50,000 in masks).

If we only worry about ourselves, we’re in this alone. If we each do one small thing for someone else, we’re in this together.

There is no shortage of news today, so let’s get on with it.

The U.S. continues to (try to) find its footing

The U.S. looks set to finally pass its major fiscal stimulus bill this morning, but it has not yet been announced as of the sending of this email. The passing of this or some similar financial aid package is critical to financial markets, small businesses, large businesses, and pretty much anyone around the world, but especially in the U.S.

Meanwhile, President Trump continues to send mixed messages on…pretty much everything.

Local leaders time to shine: Where Trump and the federal government have foundered, local leaders are stepping up. Watch this video of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo addressing the public. He says that while New York has more cases than any other city in the U.S., that’s only because it was among the first cities hit and because it’s done a better job of testing. “New York is just the test case. You will see what we are seeing across the country in the coming weeks.”

China updates

After months of lockdown, China’s Hubei Province — the likely origin of the virus and the most-infected region globally — is finally lifting travel restrictions and encouraging people to get back to normal life and business as usual.

But wait: It is difficult to say conclusively that China is in the clear. As SupChina reported yesterday, China may be manipulating its COVID-19 numbers in various ways, and there are even (mostly unverified) reports of sick people being denied coronavirus tests so as to suppress the official case count.

In other news, similar to Trump’s repeated use of the phrase “Chinese Virus”, many Chinese officials have been publicly and officially endorsing conspiracy theories that the U.S. army deliberately introduced the coronavirus into Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began.

But China’s Ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, distanced himself from these other officials’ messages, saying that such theories were “crazy”. It is exceedingly unusual for Chinese government officials to make differing claims and statements about critical topics, although most of the rest of Cui’s interview was on-brand for the Chinese Communist Party, deflecting difficult questions about human rights, the virus, Xi Jinping, and so on.

Our take: Perhaps both governments have agreed on a rhetorical climbdown: Trump has refrained from using the phrase “Chinese Virus” since Cui’s interview.

Around the world in 30 seconds

  • India has ordered a lockdown of his country of 1.3 billion people for 21 days. Prime minister Narendra Modi said: “To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes.” The country has so far reported 469 cases, and 10 deaths. (CNBC)
  • Italy has reported 602 new deaths, bringing the total to 6,077, with reported 63,928 infections. In theUK, the death toll has reached 335 among 6,650 cases.” (Al Jazeera)
  • Germany’s coronavirus anomaly: high infection rates but few deaths (Financial Times)
  • The Tokyo Olympics were postponed yesterday, and today it was announced that the delay will be for one year and the games will be held in 2021. (Bloomberg)
  • Hong Kong has barred all non-residents from visiting the island territory and has disallowed bars from serving alcohol, in a bid to prevent the “second wave” of new cases that have appeared in recent days (Caixin $$)
  • Japan “has recorded a mere 49 deaths and 1,140 infections. Why are the numbers so low despite an apparent lack of preparation? It’s not entirely clear. (Asia Times)
  • In Brazil, which now has 1,965 reported infections and  34 deaths, citizens are turning against president Bolsonaro “for his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.” (LA Times)

Cure and vaccine radar

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If you found this newsletter helpful, please share it with your friends and family.

Take care, and don’t forget to wash your hands!

March 23, 2020

Photo by Cheng Fend on Unsplash

Dear readers,

We appreciate you trusting us to bring you interesting, quality coverage of the global COVID-19 pandemic. As a New York-based, China-focused news organization, this historic event and its impact on everyone everywhere couldn’t be closer to the core of our mission to educate, inform, and unite communities around the world, in particular in the U.S. and China.

In the coming days we’re going to bring you recommendations of ways you can help your community and communities around the world to cope with the outbreak and its economic impact. This article from the Washington Post provides a good start.

If we worry only about ourselves, we’re all on our own. If each of us puts even $10 towards the next-most-at-risk person after ourselves, we’re in this together.

Our personal first-choice for those in the U.S. is Meals on Wheels, which brings food to seniors and special-needs individuals who are most at-risk in society. Find a chapter near you.

Please write to us with your ideas for how to support those in need at editors@supchina.com.

On to the news!

 

**Breaking updates **

COVID-19: the ultimate game-changer

Global cases of COVID-19 surged almost 50% over the weekend — from 246,000 last Friday to more than 367,000 today.

The 30% drop in U.S. and many other global financial markets was the fastest sell-off ever, faster even than the Great Depression that began in 1929. It’s unclear how much worse it could get.

Most news and analysis of COVID-19 has focused on the immediately important details of what is happening and how we can or should respond to it.

But a growing number of voices have begun to assess what the long-term impact of the pandemic will be.

  • The Coronavirus might kill globalization (Bloomberg)
  • The coronavirus is a game-changer for mental health (MIT Technology Review)
  • The coronavirus’s unexpected silver lining: the environment (Fortune)
  • The lessons of COVID-19: working from home (SupChina)

And some voices point out that it’s too soon to tell. The general failure of multilateralism (or conversely, the rise of nationalism) and the need for most countries to prioritize economic re-growth instead of greening the economy may counterbalance whatever silver linings may come from the crisis. Also, some behavior changes in response to the outbreak may or may not actually reduce energy consumption or pollution — depending on where you live and what you consume.

The U.S. and China switch places

For much the past 50 years, the U.S. has led global diplomacy, especially during times of crisis.

At present, however, the U.S.’s botched handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has left the country haggling internally over how to respond and with an unprecedented shortage of basic medical supplies, even in “the best city in the world” where employees of Columbia University Irving Medical Center have been given one mask each and told they are responsible for keeping it clean.

Meanwhile, China is pushing for the global leadership position in the COVID-19 crisis, sending medical equipment and experts to support countries around the world.

While the headlines talk about the U.S. beginning to release inmates to lessen the strain on overwhelmed prison and healthcare facilities, China’s richest man is sending masks and testing kits to countries around the world ‒ including the U.S.

China’s economy emerges from COVID-19

While much of the U.S., Europe, and the rest of the world is just entering shutdown mode to combat the spread of COVID-19, China is just coming out of it.

Shanghai, the financial center of the country and its most international city, just downgraded its alert level from Level One to Level Two (one is the most serious), after entering the elevated status on January 24th, almost two months ago. Even Wuhan, the city where the virus first emerged and where more cases have been reported than any one other area globally, has announced that it will begin to ease lockdown measures, resuming public transportation and allowing people to go back to work.

Not so fast: Despite official Chinese figures reporting few to no new domestic COVID-19 cases, “authorities continue to detect more infections, with those in the city at the heart of the country’s outbreak often amounting to more than a dozen a day,” according to Beijing-based investigative business magazine Caixin. So be wary of the numbers coming from Beijing.

Double economic whammy: While China may have survived its own shutdown, now it must also survive the shutdown of the rest of the world. Chinese factories have been empty for over two months as the government prevented employees from going to work. Now, they may go to work but have no orders to fill, as global demand for practically everything except masks and ventilators has tanked.

Around the world in 30 seconds

Hong Kong has banned non-residents from visiting, and prohibited bars from serving alcohol in response to a second wave of imported coronavirus cases. (Bloomberg via Caixin)

Italy is “slowing industrial production nationwide, while the hardest-hit region of Lombardy has banned any outdoor exercise not on personal property and set distance limits on dog-walking.” (Euronews)

Syria reported its first coronavirus infection, prompting citizens to “stock up on food and fuel Monday amid fears that authorities would resort to” stricter containment measures. Iran “reported another 127 coronavirus deaths, bringing its death toll to 1,812 amid 23,049 confirmed cases.” (GlobalNews.ca)

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said “We are at war,” and called on Europe “to launch a massive, coordinated public investment programme like the post World War Two Marshall Plan.” The country’s death toll jumped to over 1,700 over the weekend, with more than 28,000 cases of infection. (Reuters)

Angola, Eritrea, and Uganda confirmed their first cases. Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, plans on closing its two main international airports in the cities of Lagos and Abuja from tonight. (AfricaNews.com). The total number of cases across the continent of Africa has surpassed 1,000 (Andalou Agency).

In the U.K., scientists are still warning that the government is not doing enough. (Independent)

In Australia, the government’s response is changing under scrutiny. (ABC Australia) New Zealand has put the country on lockdown. (New Zealand Herald)

Cure and vaccine radar

  • These drugs are helping our coronavirus patients (WSJ)
  • WHO launches global megatrial of the four most promising coronavirus treatments (Science Magazine)
  • Scientists are racing to find the best drugs to treat COVID-19 (The Verge)

March 20, 2020

Taxis are seen at a parking lot of Miami International airport as air traffic and the tourism industry are affected by the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Miami, Florida, U.S., March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria 

The U.S. enters the gauntlet

U.S. cases of COVID-19 shot up by 50% overnight, passing the 10,000 mark and reaching 14,250 as of the sending of this newsletter. That is up from just 1,300 just seven days ago — more than a 1,000% per week growth rate.

California, the largest U.S. state, issued a “shelter in place order” to its 40 million residents, legally requiring all of them to stay at home and avoid meetings and gatherings of any kind. 

Employees in 16 critical infrastructure industries (electricity plants, garbage collection, water filtration plants etc.) are exempted. Grocery stores, pharmacies, and other critical services will also remain open. This CNN article summarizes what is and is not allowed during a shelter-in-place order.

Florida’s reported cases of COVID-19 have surged to 432, with nine deaths reported. The state is set up for disaster: thousands of complacent students descended on its beaches for spring break, while many of the state’s year-round inhabitants are high-risk retirees.  

Reality check: Younger adults are a large percentage — almost 50% — of those being admitted to hospitals across the U.S. and Europe.

But it is true that people over the age of 70 comprise the majority of COVID-19-related deaths. Sadly, nursing homes across the country are reporting growing outbreaks in their vulnerable populations where social distancing isn’t really an option. 

‘At war with no ammo’: doctors say shortage of protective gear is dire

The above headline from the New York Times tells the dire story of scenes playing out in Seattle and other cities that were hit earliest by the virus. Health workers across the country have taken to making their own masks and other basic implements using common household supplies. 

Beyond masks and things that can be made quickly, there is also a growing risk that the U.S. will run short of mechanical ventilators — the life-saving machines that are required when respiratory diseases like COVID-19 reach a critical stage in any patient. Governments around the world have been scrambling to repurpose automobile factories to make ventilators, just as in wartime periods of the past. 

It didn’t need to be like this. The Trump administration — and governments across Europe —  ignored a series of warnings and red flags as China’s COVID-19 crisis thickened during the months of January and February.

Watch this insane video of Fox News’s early denial regarding the virus, and their tone of urgency just days later. 

Google to use location data to track coronavirus? 

Weeks ago, SupChina reported on how China was radically increasing its already robust data surveillance of its citizens as part of its efforts to track and control the spread of COVID-19 — and how such surveillance measures were likely to persist after the crisis passes.

Now the U.S. government is considering similar tactics. Specifically, the government may ask companies like Google and Facebook to share user location data as part of its efforts to track the spread of the virus. 

But wait:  There is opposition and concern in congress over these measures, as similar to post-9/11 surveillance legislation, these policies are hard to walk back when the crisis ends, particularly if the crisis doesn’t end. 

There have been no concrete announcements on what will or will not be done with personal data, but it is a topic to watch.

Business news

U.S. stock markets are edging higher as investors process the waves of stimulus sloshing around the globe (see yesterday’s lengthy update, “You should try some stimulus, everyone is doing it”). 

European and Asian markets fared decently overnight, too.

China’s stock markets, on the other hand, never really went down during the worst of its COVID-19 battle, but seem to be exhibiting uncertainty as the country of 1.4 billion people tries to go back to work.

Walmart and Amazon are going to cumulatively hire 250,000 people in coming weeks, and Walmart plans employee bonuses of more than $550 million

But U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned Republican senators “behind closed doors Tuesday that [the unemployment rate] could surge to 20% if they don’t act swiftly — levels not seen since the Great Depression.” 

Worth repeating: The U.S. has not seen unemployment above 10% since the Great Depression, in the 1930s. An unemployment rate of 20% would be devastating for the economy no matter what Congress, the Treasury Department, Donald Trump, and Wall Street try to do.

Around the world in 30 seconds

Most countries across the globe have implemented travel restrictions, whether completely sealing off borders or blacklisting travellers from certain regions.  

Italy marked a grim milestone” Thursday as its number of deaths reached 3,405, surpassing China’s reported number 3,245. Total reported infections in Italy are at 41,035, while China is reporting 81,250. 

Iran’s health ministry said a person is dying every ten minutes from COVID-19. The official death toll is 1,284. There are 18,407 reported infections, but as with many countries around the world, including the U.S., the real numbers may be even worse given shortage of test kits and medical resources.

Japan quietly reopens as much of the world locks down: are these half measures that will fail, or a sensible mix of temperature screenings and partial shutdowns that will protect both people’s health and the economy? (Nikkei

In the U.K., temporary morgues are being set up as the death toll mounts: 144 fatalities so far, with 3,269 reported infections.   

France has instituted nationwide home confinement regulations. 

34 of Africa’s 54 countries have reported cases, with the total close to 650. South Africa has 150 reported cases, Nigeria has 12.

Russia has 63 reported cases

Cure and vaccine radar

  • A coronavirus vaccine will take at least 18 months—if it works at all. (MIT Review
  • Hundreds of scientists are scrambling to find a coronavirus treatment. (NYT
  • U.S. president Donald Trump continues to lie about treatments and vaccines. (FactCheck.org)

 

March 19, 2020

Stereophonics, a British band, have played multiple show dates in the U.K. in recent days, while the rest of the world looks on in disbelief. (See “Around the world” section below.)

 

You should try stimulus, everyone else is doing it 

The world is dealing with a new reality: The bottom has fallen out of the global economy. No one knows how bad the damage will be.

Economists are predicting that China will have experienced its first outright economic contraction since 1976, the first year records began being kept. Projections for the U.S. are no better. With China and the U.S. on the ropes and Europe already teetering on the brink of recession before the pandemic, few countries look capable of escaping untouched.

And so in the past days there has been an unprecedented wave of economic stimulus packages  announced by governments all around the world. 

Where the stimulus responses to the financial crisis of 2008 were measured in tens or hundreds of billions of dollars, this time we’re talking trillions.

The U.S. leads the way

The United States — the world’s largest economy — announced a stimulus plan of more than $1 trillion dollars.

Our thought for the day: Both houses and parties of congress have come together with the White House to pass enormous and critical legislation at record speed. When they believe in and care about something, they can do it. Perhaps the environment, technology and data privacy, and other critical issues may get some overdue attention after COVID-19 passes.

Some of the details:

  • Trump announced two separate $250 billion rounds of cash stimulus that would be sent directly to U.S. taxpayers.
  • The Treasury department will provide detailed guidelines on how this will be done. There has been mention of making the amount of money received tiered based on income level and family size.
  • Congress is looking set to pass a separate act that would provide free virus testing to anyone in the U.S., paid emergency sick leave for those who don’t already have it, food security funds, and increased funding for Medicaid.
  • Funds were outlined for specific industries that are being hit particularly hard. $50 billion for the airline industry and $150 billion for “severely distressed sectors.” This money would come as a range of cash, loan guarantees, or new loans.
  • There would be a separate $300 billion fund set up for “small business continuity” to help small businesses across the country weather the storm.

Other countries aren’t far behind

Most countries in the world are doing something to combat the economic impact of the virus. Below are some key highlights (see this page from finance industry website Investopedia for more). 

  • China — the world’s second-largest economy — has been notably silent on large stimulus measures. While in 2008 it responded more ferociously than any other country including the U.S. and is even credited by some with having “saved the world economy” at that time, they appear to be waiting or abstaining altogether this time, despite their economy being in its worst economic contraction since modern record keeping began in 1976. (FT)
  • Japan — the world’s third-largest economy — has offered $15 billion of aid direct to individuals and, more importantly in a country with the highest corporate debt to GDP ratio in the world, a large program to buy corporate debt and issue new corporate loans. With a comparatively limited outbreak crisis and a very high level of household savings, it is possible that the Japanese government is holding back the bigger guns for harder times that may be yet to come.
  • European nations are doing whatever it takes to reassure people that their economies will not fail. Just this morning, Christine Lagarde, the President of the European Central Bank, pledged no upper limits to facilities that will be made available to keep the European Union afloat.
    • France has said that “no company will be allowed to fail because of the coronavirus disease.” Few details have been provided as to how that will be achieved. (CNN)
    • Germany’s normally tight-lipped finance minister announced a week ago that “there is no upper limit on the amount of loans the KfW [the nation’s development bank] can issue” and “this is the bazooka and we will use it to do whatever it takes.” Over EUR 500 billion ($539.8 billion) is already available, and it was said that “this is just the beginning.” (FT)
    • Italy has banned companies from laying off workers and has mandated that rents should be reduced. (Channel News Asia)
    • Spain announced a EUR 200 billion plan of its own. (Politico)
  • In the U.K., the government has backed $400 billion in loans to companies and mortgage lenders have agreed to delay payments for three months. (CNN)
  • Australia  $15 billion “for sectors bearing the brunt of the economic shock…including airlines, tourism, events, sport and the arts.”
  • Turkey $15 billion aiming”to protect small businesses, exporters, employees and pensioners.”
  • Canada $82 billion “in direct aid and deferred tax payments for individuals and businesses..”

What happens after social distancing is over? 

China entered the coronavirus crisis months before the rest of the world, reporting its first cases to the World Health Organization on December 31, 2019. They enacted severe countermeasures that essentially shut down all travel, movement, commerce, and civic society in large swaths of the country of 1.4 billion people. At the time, some critics said the measures were “authoritarian” and overly draconian. Now, most Western nations have been forced to  follow suit as they face their own coronavirus epidemics. From California to New York to London to Berlin — “shelter in place” orders have either been given or are pending any day.

Just as it entered the crisis earlier, so too will China attempt to come out of it earlier. 

Today, China announced that it has no new domestic cases of COVID-19. They did report about 40 new cases, but all can be traced directly to people who recently traveled in other countries — none were the result of community spread within China. Note: numbers from the Chinese government should be treated with caution.

This will be a moment of truth not just for China, but for the world. Experts are watching closely to see if there is a “second wave” of infections after social distancing measures are eased and people attempt to return to normal life. 

U.S. updates

Grocery store workers have featured prominently in people’s minds as they continue to work every day, and in environments with high exposure to large numbers of people. BuzzFeed looks at the realities of their current day to day situation.

The first two members of congress to contract the virus are from Florida and Utah. While they may be the first politicians in the U.S. to contract the disease, they are now in the company of dozens of prominent politicians around the world who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

U.S. armed forces have begun to see concentrated outbreaks among their populations. (Navy Times, Military.com)

There is growing concern that outbreaks in U.S. prisons could be a true nightmare scenario, as the prison system is overpopulated and under-resourced, particularly in regards to healthcare. (CNN)

Trump has implemented a Cold-War-era law called the Defense Production Act, which would allow the federal government to direct industrial production to ensure there are no shortages of critical materials and products to battle the pandemic. But he tweeted earlier in the day that he would only use the new powers “in a worst case scenario”. (NPR)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has said it will only make “mission critical” arrests during the COVID-19 crisis (i.e. it will go easier on enforcement). (NYT)

Around the world

  • Doctors in England are “frightened” about their under-resourced system’s ability to handle the pending tidal wave of COVID-19 patients. Meanwhile, a concert of tens of thousands of people played on.
  • Singapore has shown a growing number of cases, despite its early success in battling the disease. Its numbers still rank as some of the best (i.e. lowest) in the world. (Channel News Asia)
  • Africa has so far fared pretty well against the coronavirus. Some point out that this may not be a fluke, as the continent has a lot of counter-outbreak infrastructure leftover from the ebola crisis of 2014. Others point out that the situation could turn on a dime and there is no cause for celebration. (The Intercept)

Cure and vaccine radar

The Milken Institute has launched a tracker focused solely on all the potential vaccines and cures for COVID-19. Check it out here, and check back regularly if this topic interests you. (We’ll also bring updates to you here!)

  • Japanese flu drug ‘clearly effective’ in treating coronavirus, says China (The Guardian)
  • WHO announces global trial to study coronavirus treatments (The Hill)
  • A promising treatment for coronavirus fails (NYT)

 

March 17, 2020

Credit: Evan Vucci/AP / Associated Press

 

Trump finally takes the coronavirus seriously

In a White House briefing yesterday morning, President Trump unveiled sweeping new national guidelines aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. He urged all people to keep their kids home from school, to work from home if at all possible, to avoid unnecessary travel, and to not eat or drink in restaurants and bars. He advised not meeting in groups of more than 10 people, and stressed that these guidelines apply to everyone, including the young and healthy, not just the elderly or ill who are most at risk.

“If everyone makes this change, or these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation. With several weeks of focused action, we can turn the corner and turn it quickly.” 

The most recent prior White House briefing, given last Friday, sent markets up 10%, but yesterday he was not so lucky, as markets plummeted 12-13%. 

When asked about the economy, and the stock market in particular, Trump said, 

“The market — the market will take care of itself.  The market will be very strong, as soon as we get rid of the virus.”

On top of this, he stated that social distancing measures and the overall battle against the virus could last until July or August, and “maybe longer.” 

Our take: For a President that has repeatedly downplayed the risks posed by the virus, and who has staked much of his legacy on the strong performance of the stock markets (having tweeted about it more than 140 times), his current demeanor towards the public health crisis is a notable evolution. It may be in response to research that put worst-case scenarios at 2.2 million deaths in the U.S. if the outbreak were to go wholly unmitigated.

One big problem:  The U.S. still lags extremely far behind other nations when it comes to testing. We have no idea how many cases of the virus are already in the U.S. right now.

Societal impact

Some truly amazing data visualizations by the Washington Post make clear just how and why social distancing and staying at home can make an enormous difference in how hard the outbreak hits society, and how many people die.

Grocery store employees are every bit as much on the front lines as doctors. (Twitter)

Quartz published an interesting piece on how the coronavirus and the massive uptick in time spent at home will lead to more babies…and divorces. 

We at SupChina put out a video last week about the potential long-lasting shift in work and school cultures that may emerge from the nationwide work-from-home experiments taking place around the world.

U.S. and global economic trouble just beginning

The Dow Jones and S&P 500 indexes are down almost 30% so far in 2020. Goldman Sachs, a New York investment bank, projects that economic growth for the U.S. economy will be 0% from January to March, and an unprecedented -5% for April and May. 

Oil is hovering at or just below $30 per barrel — a price level last seen circa 2003.

Yesterday we reported on auto manufacturers shutting down plants across the globe. Today, it’s airplane manufacturers. Airbus has temporarily shut down plants in Spain and France, as those countries are both in official states of emergency (as is the U.S.). Granted, their problems extend beyond production capacity, as it is unclear what will happen to orders for planes from airlines, if those airlines themselves aren’t growing or are filing for bankruptcy in coming months. 

 

For context: Boeing is the single largest industrial sector stock in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and it experienced a 24% price drop on Monday alone. U.S. airlines have requested $50 billion of aid from Congress — more than three times as much as they requested after 9/11.

 

Plot twist (that you saw coming):  One company may be growing this year, as Amazon seeks to hire 100,000 delivery and warehouse employees to keep up with demand.

China economy runs out of steam

For decades, China has been the leading contributor to global GDP growth, but that may be about to end. There is growing evidence that China’s economy may have experienced its first outright contraction since 1976, and that it may not be possible to restart the economy so easily as it was stopped to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. (NYT)

China is also the largest trading partner to most nations around the world, meaning that if China enters recession at the same time as other countries face their own problems, it will be exceedingly difficult for anyone to avoid a rough landing. (See McKinsey report here for a detailed assessment of China’s economic relationship with the world.)

The bottom line: While China may have managed to control the outbreak with more success than anyone could have ever expected, it is far from clear that they will be able to successfully control the longer-term impact of the outbreak.

Other China news

  • Trump sparks anger by calling coronavirus the “Chinese virus” (Guardian)
  • China’s propaganda engine kicks into overdrive as COVID-19 “passes peak” (SupChina)
  • A prominent Chinese business person has gone missing after criticizing the government’s handling of the crisis, and in particular the policies of the country’s president, Xi Jinping (SupChina)
  • One positive outcome from the virus and its resultant economic shutdown is a cleaner environment (CNN)
  • Hong Kong has issued what may be the toughest travel restrictions of any territory in the world. Inbound travelers from anywhere else, other than China, will undergo a mandatory 14 day quarantine. All outbound travel has been strongly discouraged. (Hong Kong Free Press)

Around the world

  • The Peace Corps is suspending all activities globally. (Peace Corps website)
  • India may be a particularly difficult country in which to control the spread of the disease, given its extreme urban population density and underdeveloped public health and sanitation infrastructure. (Gulf News)
  • In India, rumors have gone viral on social media and the internet that COVID-19 is a biological weapon gone awry, and some rumors even place the blame on China. (SCMP)
  • 35% of the players, coaches, and staff of the professional soccer team in Valencia, Spain, have tested positive for the disease. (Bleacher Report)
  • Japanese government officials have insisted they will not cancel the 2020 Summer Olympics yet, but its citizens are dissenting. (WSJ)

Cure and vaccine radar

  • The four ways the coronavirus nightmare could end (Daily Beast)
  • A potential vaccine entered Phase I trial testing in the U.S. on Monday. Even under ideal circumstances, and assuming the vaccine is effective, it would still be many months or even a year before the vaccine could be made available to the public. (CNN)
  • Coronavirus drugs: Who’s doing what, and when they might come (Yahoo)
  • Hopes for coronavirus vaccine rise after Chinese scientists find infected monkeys developed immunity (SCMP)

March 16, 2020

Everything hits at once

COVID-19 infections and deaths outside of China now outnumber those in China, according to official data — and President Trump is finally beginning to take the crisis seriously. On Friday, he declared a national emergency, freeing up billions of dollars in government funds.

Schools are closing across the U.S., and cities and states from California to Illinois to Ohio to Massachusetts and New York City are shutting down restaurants, shops, and places of non-essential public gathering. Apple, the world’s most valuable company, has closed all of its stores outside of China (where stores recently opened after weeks of closure). 

But companies like Apple and their shareholders are likely to fare much better than many of their employees.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 58% of the U.S. workforce is paid based on hourly rates. Less hours worked means less money made. Many of those who can still work may not be able to, as they have the newly imposed burden of taking care of their children who are normally in school most of the day.

It gets worse: On top of reduced earnings, many of the worst-affected families may get a double whammy, in the form of increased costs. Up to 30 million children in the U.S. depend on school for at least one meal a day. This is in a country where the majority of the population cannot afford to miss even one paycheck

Most economic recessions involve incremental reductions in commercial activity. But during a pandemic, everything shuts down at once, and no strategic shift or competitive moves by any company can overcome the forces that are pulling the economy down. 

This isn’t a financial crisis or even an economic crisis — it’s a human crisis.

One is the loneliest number

Even before the coronavirus epidemic, there has been growing concern about a so-called loneliness epidemic in advanced economies, where digital information, interactions, and relationships appear to be replacing real ones. Headlines throughout 2019 talked about how everyone from millennials to the aging were facing upticks in reported loneliness. Some declared that “loneliness is the sad reality of modern life”.

COVID-19 will not help, with the primary method of confronting the disease being the now-ubiquitous “social distancing”. 

A collection of headlines from over the weekend:

  • Coronavirus will also cause a loneliness epidemic (Vox)
  • Coronavirus: How to protect your mental health (BBC)
  • What you need to know about California’s lockdown of seniors and the chronically ill (CalMatters.org)
  • Quarantine has serious impact on mental health. Here’s how to support yourself and others (Quartz)
  • How to keep coronavirus fears from affecting your mental health (CNN)

The economy is at a breaking point

Economists are in near-unanimous agreement that the U.S. economy is at severe risk of entering recession due to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on businesses, employees, consumers, and investors. 

Indeed, China — the world’s second-largest economy after the U.S. — is already in the throes of an acute economic contraction, which shows no sign of being over. China entered the coronavirus crisis about two months before the rest of the world, so whatever happens there may be a strong indicator of what is to follow elsewhere.

  • U.S. stock markets plummeted at the open on Monday. (CNBC)
  • This, despite the U.S. government cutting interest rates to zero and freeing up trillions of dollars of cash to flow into financial markets (CNBC here and here)
  • Volkswagen, the world’s second-largest auto manufacturer, closes factories around Europe and the U.S. So does Fiat-Chrysler (WSJ)
  • Apple closes all stores outside of China (its China stores are slowly reopening after having already been closed for weeks) (Business Insider)
  • Nike has closed all of its 384 retail stores across the U.S. (CNBC)

Around the U.S.

U.S. cases more than doubled over the weekend, according to official data from the World Health Organization.

As of today, West Virginia is the only state to not have reported cases of COVID-19. This comes about seven weeks after the first case was reported on January 21st, around which time Trump felt “we have it very well under control”.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released guidance that all gatherings of more than 50 people in the U.S. should be postponed or canceled.

On the bright side: NBA stars are helping pay the salaries of stadium workers during the coronavirus shutdown.

  • The problems with our coronavirus testing are worse than you think (Axios)
  • Hospitals delay elective surgeries and other non-urgent care to make room for coronavirus influx (WSJ)
  • New York City finally made the decision to close its school system — the nation’s largest — after its teachers union threatened to go on strike to force the move, after more than 329 cases of COVID-19 were reported among students. (NYT)
  • U.S. health agency suffers cyber-attack during COVID-19 response (Bloomberg)
  • It’s not just toilet paper — people are stockpiling guns, ammunition, and more. (USA Today)
  • Airports became disaster sites all their own after coronavirus temperature scans and travel restrictions went into place. (Buzzfeed)
  • Thousands left a Miami cruise ship without screenings after a former passenger got COVID-19. (Miami Herald)

Around the world in 30 seconds

  • Denmark has closed its borders and called on its overseas citizens to return home. (TheLocal.dk)
  • Germany has also closed its borders. (BBC)
  • Italy suffered record daily losses — 368 new deaths and 3,590 new cases in 24 hours. (Axios)
  • 35 Italian tourists in Ethiopia refused to return to Italy despite the expiration of their visas (Transports.ng)
  • As coronavirus spreads in Africa, countries move quickly to contain disease with travel bans, closures (SCMP)
  • Spain and France have joined Italy in enforcing massive, society-wide shutdowns to stem the spread of the disease, after Spain sees overnight doubling in deaths. (BBC)
  • India so far has only reported 113 cases, but the second most-populous country in the world with 1.38 billion people has gone on the offensive, shutting down school systems and other parts of society and the economy. (The Hindu

Cure and vaccine radar

News reports of potential vaccine developments have proliferated from Canada to Germany to the U.S. to Israel, but none offer concrete outcomes and vaguely reference optimism that progress is being made. 

  • Anatomy of a killer (Economist)
  • When will a coronavirus vaccine be ready? (The Guardian)
  • Government official: Coronavirus vaccine trial starts Monday. (AP)
  • As the coronavirus spreads, a drug that once raised the world’s hopes is given a second shot. (Stat News)
  • With weeks to go to COVID-19 vaccine trial, BioNTech landed aed a $135 million deal and is in advanced talks with Pfizer. (Fierce Biotech)
  • Coronavirus: Canadian researchers have made progress toward a vaccine. (Montreal Gazette)

March 13, 2020

We’re all in the same boat

What began a few months ago as a China-only phenomenon is now a global infectious disease outbreak unlike anything the world has seen in recent memory.

Four new countries have reported their first cases — French Polynesia, Turkey, Honduras, and Cote de Ivoire. That means that 118 of the 195 countries or territories in the world now have confirmed cases of COVID-19. (World Health Organization)

No one is able to fully insulate themselves from contagion. The wife of the Prime Minister of Canada, Sophie Trudeau, was diagnosed yesterday. Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, were diagnosed the day before, as were Donovan Mitchell and a number of other NBA and other professional athletes around the world. The virus has been spreading in France’s parliament for over a week now. Perhaps most interestingly, Brazil’s national press secretary tested positive just days after meeting and shaking hands with President Donald Trump. Some experts have called for Trump to be tested and quarantined, but the White House has said that is unnecessary.

BREAKING UPDATE:  There are conflicting reports about whether Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, who was in the room with Trump and the infected Brazilian press secretary, has now tested positive for coronavirus. (Guardian UK / Fox News)

We’re seeing reports of “ghost towns” across the U.S. — empty streets and civic centers — and National Guard-staffed emergency centers that are shockingly similar to the scenes seen across China at the beginning of their own outbreak. 

No money

  • Tokyo’s stock markets — the second largest capital markets in the world after the U.S. — were down up to 10% on Friday but ended down only around 6%, as financial markets exhibit viral contagion all their own. (Japan Today)
  • In Friday trading, European markets including London, France, and Germany, all saw a bounceback of more than 3% from their Thursday lows. (CNN)
  • U.S. markets have opened up by 3% after yesterday’s rout, but let’s wait before saying the worst is over. (CNN)

Economists have been saying the global economy was at risk of slipping into recession for much the past year, and the coronavirus impact to the “real” (i.e. non-capital-markets) economy may seal the deal. (WSJ

Think: Oil companies failing as oil prices plummet, airlines hitting rougher times than even after 9/11, industry / cultural / entertainment gatherings cancelled (see below), restaurants empty, hourly employees at all the above not working shifts, invoices for pretty much anything going unpaid for weeks or months, and so on. 

No sports (except in China)

MLB cancels operations. NBA, NHL, MLS (soccer), and the ATP tennis tour are indefinitely suspended. NASCAR and the PGA Tour will continue at least a while longer, albeit without fans. NCAA basketaball’s March Madness is cancelled. The British Premier League has suspended soccer matches till April. (Market Watch, CNBC

Trump has suggested the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics should be cancelled, but Seiko Hashimoto, a Japanese government minister responsible for the games, said that such a move is currently “inconceivable.” 

  • BUT: The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), on the other hand, has given its American players an ultimatum to return to China by the end of the week to prepare to resume normal play by early April. (ESPN)

No culture

  • All Broadway productions are closed. (NYPost)
  • The Metropolitan Opera, Metropolitan Museum, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Guggenheim, MoMa, and New York Public Library are all closed. (NYPost)
  • So are the Smithsonian Institutes, Capital Hill, and White House in Washington, DC. (USA Today)
  • So are the museums across Italy, Paris, and much of the rest of Europe.
  • Disney and Universal Studios closed their flagship Florida theme parks. Disney had already closed the entirety of its California, Tokyo, and Hong Kong parks and parts of its Shanghai and Paris parks. (Miami Herald)
  • Movie releases, such as the new Mulan and The New Mutants, are being delayed in the U.S. and elsewhere. (Vox)
  • Music festivals such as South by Southwest and Coachella are cancelled or delayed. (Vox)
  • Somehow, Cannes film festival is saying it will only cancel if the outbreak “worsens.” (The Guardian

The U.S.

  • If there is a surge in cases, the U.S. has nowhere near enough emergency beds or ventilators to care for all coronavirus patients, let alone other types of patients that require ventilator care. (NYT)
  • A Miami man stuck with a big bill for a coronavirus test has had his fees waived by his insurer. (Miami Herald)

China, China, China

China is the unexpected recipient of international praise for its all-out, nationwide effort to control the outbreak. “China bought the West time. The West squandered it.” (NYT)

Jack Ma — the founder of Alibaba, basically the Amazon of China — has donated 500,000 coronavirus testing kits to the U.S. (Jack Ma’s Twitter)

But, new evidence indicates that Chinese health authorities knew about the virus all the way back in November, up to a month and half earlier than previously thought.(SCMP) (Then again, the White House “knew coronavirus would be a ‘major threat’ — but response fell short.”)

In any case, the Communist Party of China’s propaganda engine is kicking into turbo mode to declare the virus a victory of some sort for the Party, per our own reporting here at SupChina.

“As the Party’s confidence grows that it has handled the crisis competently, propaganda organizations have got their work cut out for them to reshape the narrative about COVID-19, both in China and abroad.

The conspiracy theory that the virus did not originate in China — already encouraged by Chinese government officials, including top Chinese epidemiologist Zhōng Nánshān 钟南山, for more than a week now — is still being pushed.

The Trumpish, tweeting new Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhào Lìjiān 赵立坚 today once again suggested, “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” on Twitter. There is some evidence that Chinese embassies have been given instructions to refer to the “Italian virus” or “Japanese virus” in their communications.”

Around the world in 30 seconds

  • Singapore enacted very strict global travel restrictions similar to what the new U.S. rules. (Channel News Asia)
  • How are the world’s largest coronavirus outbreaks outside China growing? (NYT
  • Some West African countries are better prepared than the U.S. and Europe: one reason is their health care systems recently had to deal with Ebola (New Straits Times)
  • Senegal already has an impressive testing system in place and is soon going to be making its own test kits. (The Week, Quartz)
  • Australia will ban all non-essential public gatherings, Russia told reporters covering Putin to stay away if they feel unwell, Japan approved emergency powers for the prime minister. (CNBC

Cure and vaccine radar

  • “Israeli research center to announce it developed coronavirus vaccine, sources say” (Haaretz) Editor’s note: take with grain of salt.
  • “We already have medicines for treating cytokine storm syndrome, the immune response that’s killing many who die of COVID-19.”  (Vox)
  • Researchers at the University of North Texas’s Health Science Center are working on a stem cell-based coronavirus treatment. (WFFA)

March 12, 2020

 

Trump addressed the nation (and the world)

Last night, Trump gave a live address to the world from the Oval Office, announcing sweeping travel restrictions on people coming from most European countries, on top of the existing restrictions on travelers from China, South Korea, Iran, and other nations where there has been sustained community spread of the virus. He discussed some economic relief measures, but aside from travel restrictions, he gave scant details on plans for dealing with the disease itself. in

The key takeaways from Trump’s speech:

  • Inbound travel to the U.S. from European countries will be barred for any non-U.S. permanent residents. U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (i.e. green card holders) will still be allowed to come home, but they will likely be placed in quarantine.
  • Trump will be asking congress to pass (unspecified) economic relief measures to minimize the financial impact to workers who cannot work due to being sick, needing to stay home to take care of family members who are sick, office or plant closures due to quarantine or social distancing measures, and so on.
  • He is instructing the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide economic relief loans with low interest rates in affected states and regions. He is asking congress to increase the available funding for existing SBA small business loan programs by $50 billion.
  • He will instruct the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to defer tax payments without penalty for “certain individuals and businesses negatively impacted” in a move that will provide up to $200 billion of additional liquidity to the economy.

But many people are unsatisfied with Trump’s or the general federal government’s response. 

‘It’s just everywhere already’: How delays in testing set back the U.S. coronavirus response (MSN / NYT)

One thing to agree on: There is a mounting consensus among experts, pundits, and the public alike that government intervention can have a hugely positive impact on controlling the spread of the outbreak, so any proactive moves by government should be welcomed, regardless of one’s political leanings. According to the WHO Director General yesterday, “We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus. And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time.”

The bottom line:  The U.S. needs to act fast. If the red line continues outward on its current path, the U.S. will quickly be the worst-off country in the world with regards to coronavirus control.

A Financial Times graphic showing the rapid spread of COVID-19 in Iran, Europe, and the U.S. in comparison with cases in Hong Kong and Singapore. 

Stock markets nosedive 

U.S. stock markets opened down almost 9%, putting them on track for their worst one-day decline since the crash of 1987.

Indeed, the current course looks pretty bad when compared to other recent global crises. 

Crisis mentality spreads in U.S.

  • From Harvard to Stanford, universities are emptying their campuses (CNN). Some colleges are making preparations to cancel the entire next semester (University of Virginia website)
  • Chaos has ensued as colleges cancel classes. What about students who have no family home to return to and truly live on campus? What about foreign students who may lose their visas if they are not attending in-person classes as their visas legally require? (NYT)
  • A growing number of celebrities have been diagnosed with the disease, providing a palpable reminder that neither wealth nor power provide immunity to disease. High profile infections include:
    • Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, his wife (CNN)
    • Two NBA players on the Utah Jazz team (CNN)
    • A Brazilian government official who recently met and shook hands with Trump (CNBC)
  • Companies have begun to work from home en masse. Google ordered its entire workforce to work from home. So did Twitter
  • The National Cathedral in Washington, DC, and other churches have abandoned plans to be a refuge for people amid the turmoil (Episcopal News Service

China getting better marks as other countries botch response

Just a few weeks ago, the world was lambasting China for delaying its own response to the virus by suppressing the voices within its own medical community who sought to raise alarm bells.

But today, Donald McNeil of the New York Times said on their Daily Podcast:

“China has cut its epidemic from over 3,500 new cases per day in late January, to only 24 new cases yesterday. It’s stunning. No one thought it could be done. Public health experts say to me, if they can keep the number of new cases down — as they let millions of people back out of their houses and back into factories and subways and restaurants — if they can keep it up, they’ve done something that nobody else has ever done before.”

The Harvard Business Review went so far as to compile a list of lessons that U.S. companies can learn from their Chinese counterparts, with regards to responding to the challenges and opportunities presented by the coronavirus.

Yet other experts think the crisis is just beginning for China, in that recent events have revived political dissent in the country, after years and indeed decades of increasingly stable and uncontested Communist Party control. 

Time will tell whether the coronavirus has strengthened or weakened the Communist Party of China, much as time will tell whether it helps or hurts Trump in a critical election year. 

Around the world in 30 seconds

  • Middle Eastern countries have begun to fear that outbreak numbers are much worse than publicly reported, led by Egypt and Qatar (NYT)
  • Cruise ships have been an unsavory petri dish for highly concentrated outbreaks — that then send their infected travelers back around the globe if and when the cruise ends before symptoms of the outbreak appear (Houston Chronicle)
  • Four new countries have announced cases — Bolivia, Jamaica, Burkina Faso, and Democratic Republic of Congo (WHO)
  • The Philippines have locked down their capital and largest city, Manila (SCMP)
  • France will hold mayoral elections even as the virus spreads through its national parliament (Reuters)

Cure and vaccine radar

A lot of prognostication, but not much real, good news: 

  • Why a coronavirus vaccine is more than a year away, despite medical researchers’ progress (USA Today)
  • RNA vaccines are coronavirus frontrunners (Chemistry World)
  • Scientists were close to a coronavirus vaccine years ago. Then the money dried up. (NBC)
  • All the coronavirus treatments and vaccines in the trial pipeline (Clinical Trials Arena)

March 11, 2020

Cancel everything

Today, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus to be a pandemic. While there is no concrete, measurable definition that makes an outbreak a pandemic instead of an epidemic, the two main criteria that generally determine the differentiation are the number of countries affected (i.e. the disease needs to be in many parts of the world, not just a few), and the existence of community spread among people who do not have direct connections to the center of the outbreak.

Yesterday, a coronavirus conference was canceled due to….coronavirus. You can’t make this stuff up. 

“Cancel Everything” is the headline of a piece published in The Atlantic yesterday. The article argues that the countries that acted aggressively and early to contain the virus have seen new cases of the disease level off rather quickly (think: South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan). On the other hand, countries that waited until it was too late, or enacted only half-measures have seen continued exponential spreading rates and higher death rates, too (think: Italy, Iran). 

Which path will the U.S. follow? From the Atlantic:

We don’t yet know the full ramifications of the novel coronavirus. But three crucial facts have become clear in the first months of this extraordinary global event. And what they add up to is not an invocation to stay calm, as so many politicians around the globe are incessantly suggesting; it is, on the contrary, the case for changing our behavior in radical ways—right now. 

The first fact is that, at least in the initial stages, documented cases of COVID-19 seem to increase in exponential fashion. The second fact is that this disease is deadlier than the flu, to which the honestly ill-informed and the wantonly irresponsible insist on comparing it. The third fact is that so far only one measure has been effective against the coronavirus: extreme social distancing.

Another piece published yesterday by Vox shows in one chart how canceled events and quarantines can save lives by spreading out the number of sick people over a longer period of time, thus preventing the healthcare system from getting overloaded. Also, getting sick months from now would be better than getting sick today: doctors and scientists learn more about treating the disease with each passing day. 

The U.S. doesn’t know what it doesn’t know

Officially reported coronavirus cases edged past 1,000 last night, up from just 761 yesterday morning. That’s a 50% per day growth rate, but the worst part is that due to insufficient testing, the real numbers in the U.S. are likely much higher. That means that untold numbers of infected people are both suffering from the disease and unknowingly spreading the virus. From The Atlantic:

After surveying local data from across the country, we can only verify that 4,384 people have been tested for the coronavirus nationwide, as of Monday at 4 p.m. eastern time. These data are as comprehensive a compilation of official statistics as currently possible.

The lack of testing means that it is almost impossible to know how many Americans are infected with the coronavirus and suffering from COVID-19, the disease it causes. 

The sluggish rollout of the tests has become a debilitating weakness in America’s response to the spread of the coronavirus. By this point in its outbreak, South Korea had tested more than 100,000 people for the disease, and it was testing roughly 15,000 people every day. The United Kingdom, where three people have died of COVID-19, has already tested more than 24,900 people.

So how many people in the U.S. have the virus? How will the U.S. respond as the crisis gains momentum? 

If you still go out, be smart

Despite the seemingly undeniable logic of immediate and aggressive social distancing, some of us will be simply unable or unwilling to withdraw from society altogether. Here are a few articles about how various civic and commercial institutions are handling the crisis:

  • Religion: Churches are leveraging technology and changing old habits to respond to the crisis. (USA Today)
  • Food: What you need to know about eating out in the time of the coronavirus (Washington Post). One restaurant in LA is taking the temperature of diners before they are allowed in the restaurant.
  • Fitness: Coronavirus and gyms: what you need to know. (NYT, porous paywall)

Around the world in 30 seconds

  • Five new countries reported their first cases — Brunei Darussalam, Mongolia, Cyprus, Guernsey, and Panama. (World Health Organization)
  • Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, who is not known for unnecessary drama has said that more than two thirds of the German population could become infected. (BBC)
  • In Iran, at least 44 people have died after drinking toxic, counterfeit alcohol based on internet rumors that drinking alcohol would cure or prevent the disease. (USA Today)
  • Italy surpassed 10,000 cases as country nears total shutdown. (CNBC)
  • Ukraine is among the latest countries to start shutting down. (Kyiv Post)

Cure and vaccine radar

No concrete, verifiable developments, but a few articles from around the internet that talk about the prospects for progress:

  • Israeli-made oral vaccine on track, but testing will take months. (Times of Israel)
  • We’re learning how to beat coronavirus, but healthcare workers need more training. (NYPost)
  • More than a year to develop a coronavirus vaccine despite progress in medical research? Why? (Science Times)

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