America is now the world’s COVID-19 epicenter

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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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