This week will be much worse than last week | COVID-19 updates for 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)

——————————

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