Wednesday, May 27 – Face Masks Become “Politically Correct”
The wearing of masks while out in public has emerged as a politically charged issue as Trump has called for a return to pre-pandemic life in the hopes of revitalizing the US economy.
But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said he believes that while wearing a mask is not “100% effective,” it is a valuable safeguard and shows “respect for another person.”
President Donald Trump called wearing a face mask “politically correct” on Tuesday, while former vice president Joe Biden called Trump “a fool” for demeaning them, highlighting the politicization that has emerged around face masks during the coronavirus pandemic. In some plalces, businesses have reopened with face masks required, but in other places business owners do not allow them in their stores as a political statement.
In New York state, where almost 30,000 people have died, Long Island began reopening Wednesday, leaving New York City as the only area remaining essentially locked down. In California, barbershops and hair salons are being allowed to reopen across most of the state.
There are more than 5.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases globally, with nearly 1.7 million in the United States. More than 350,000 people have died worldwide, with almost 100,000 Americans dead in four months.
Friday, May 22 – Covid-19 in US a Changing Patchwork of Hot Spots
Peak death week in the US was supposed to be in March, but the nationwide curve is more like a plateau. In the last weeks of May, the US is seeing hot spots of infections and deaths as states reopen businesses and other facilities. From The Atlantic today: “But the stark turning point, when the number of daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. finally crested and began descending sharply, never happened. Instead, America spent much of April on a disquieting plateau, with every day bringing about 30,000 new cases and about 2,000 new deaths.”
The article continues: “This pattern exists because different states have experienced the coronavirus pandemic in very different ways. In the most severely pummeled places, like New York and New Jersey, COVID-19 is waning. In Texas and North Carolina, it is still taking off.”
Heading into Memorial Day weekend, a study predicts some Southern locations are poised for sharp upticks in new Covid-19 cases. The Miami area, populous areas of Texas, and parts of Alabama and Tennessee will see rapid surges in new Covid-19 cases.
Montgomery, Alabama’s capital, was down to one available ICU bed. A Montgomery doctor said, “We need to take more individual responsibility in how we go about our daily lives.” She said the holiday weekend and loosened restrictions could cause the virus to “go like a prairie fire … It is now really having the potential to get out of control.” Social distancing and masks “really work,” she said. “This emphasis on personal responsibility is fantastic. If everybody did that we wouldn’t need to worry about arguing about these restrictions. The challenge is we all have different ideas of personal responsibility in a civil society.”
Wednesday, May 20 – States Reopen Amid #FakeCrisis Protests and Parties As Infections Rise
There are now close to 5 million global cases and roughly 325,000 deaths since the virus first emerged in Wuhan, China less than five months ago, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The number of newly reported coronavirus cases worldwide hit a daily record this week with more than 100,000 new cases over the last 24 hours, according to the World Health Organization. Almost two-thirds of the Covid-19 cases were reported in just four countries: US, Russia, Brazil, and UK.
With 1.5 million cases of the virus and almost 92,000 fatalities, all 50 US States have started reopening businesses to some extent.
In Florida, where there have been 46,000 confirmed cases and nearly 2,000 deaths, a man who initially said he believed the coronavirus was a “fake crisis” that was “blown out of proportion” is now hospitalized with the virus. He regrets not wearing a mask to help prevent giving it to his wife, who is on a ventilator and not expected to survive.
In Fort Worth, a bar director threw himself two big warehouse birthday parties drawing hundreds of people. Police responded to the party, but only due to a complaint about the noise, and took no action.
According to a model by UT Southwestern, the key to controllling new cases is the effectiveness of social distancing and other measures. Currently judged at 60% effective, a small drop means a big increase in coronavirus cases. Conversely, increasing social distancing effectiveness to 69% can nearly wipe out new cases in months.
The model shows that the DFW area will see 800 new cases a day by early July, rather than the roughly 250 daily the area is experiencing now, if current measures such as distancing, wearing of masks and frequent hand washing, continue.
The current measures are 60 percent effective, according to the report. If measures were relaxed resulting in a 57 percent effectiveness rate, the number of new infections daily would jump to more than 1,000 by early June, the model suggests.
If prevention measures were increased to result in 65 percent effectiveness, cases would slowly decrease for the rest of the year, and if the measures rose to 69 percent effective, cases drop to near zero by August.
Friday, May 8 – US Has Highest Unemployment Since Great Depression
Thanks to the coronavirus crisis, the United States is now facing the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression.
The economy shed 20.5 million jobs in April, and the official unemployment rate rose to 14.7 percent. But, due to a data collection error it could be 19.5%, which is just under the 1932 record of 22% during the Great Depression.
Thursday, May 7 – New York Sets Criteria for Reopening Businesses
The Governor of New York issued seven criteria that a region such as New York City must meet in order to reopen businesses. Currently, no region in the state meets them, although New York City is still experiencing declines in hospitalizations and deaths.
- A 14-day drop in hospitalizations, or fewer than 15 new admissions in a three-day rolling average
- A 14-day decline in hospital deaths, or fewer than five total deaths across a three-day rolling average
- A rate of new hospitalizations below two per 100,000 residents, across a three-day rolling average
- At least 30 percent of total hospital beds unoccupied
- At least 30 percent of ICU hospital beds unoccupied
- At least 30 tests for every 1,000 residents per month
- At least 30 contact tracers retained per 100,000 residents
South Korea and Hong Kong successfully relaxed pandemic restrictions without having another rise in cases by data sharing, using targeted testing and contact tracing.
Meanwhile, Texas has already opened many businesses and has seen coronavirus infections increase. Texas has 34,422 cases and 948 deaths so far. Retail stores, restaurants, malls, museums, libraries, and movie theaters were allowed to reopen last Friday at 25% capacity. Barbershops and salons can reopen tomorrow, also at 25% capacity. And on May 18, non-essential manufacturing and office-based businesses can reopen.
Monday, May 4 – US Death Projection Revised Upwards as Businesses Reopen
About 4.5 million Italians are returning to work Monday as Italy — one of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19 — begins lifting some restrictions meant to stop the spread of the disease. Italy has lost nearly 29,000 people because of the coronavirus, second only to the United States.
In the US restriction are losening, but new projections make clear that reopening the economy comes with predictable, fatal risks. With businesses reopening and restrictions easing in the US, an updated CDC computer model predicted up to 3,000 Americans could die each day by June 1, compared to the current death toll of about 2,000 per day.
The increased estimates come as states have eased restrictions and after a weekend many Americans spent outside at protests or enjoying spring days in the park for the first time in weeks. Texas, Florida, Colorado, Indiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia, among others, loosened restrictions to revive the sputtering economy and calm residents.
President Donald Trump had previously said he expected 65,000 Americans to die, but on Sunday night, he revised that estimated death toll up to 80,000-90,000 people. A White House coronavirus task force official said projections have shown between 100,000 to 240,000 American deaths, even with social distancing.
Friday, May 1 – Covid-19 Pandemic Will Last Two Years
Because of its ability to spread from people who don’t appear to be ill, the coronavirus pandemic is likely to last as long as two years and won’t be controlled until about two-thirds of the world’s population is immune, a group of experts said in a report. Experts say people need to be prepared for periodic resurgence over the next two years.
More than 3.2 million people around the world are known to have been infected and nearly 240,000 have died worldwide.
Across the United States, governors are struggling to square demands to restart businesses with the possible health consequences of loosening social distancing rules.
Rent Strikes in California
As California enters its second full month under stay-at-home orders designed to prevent more coronavirus cases, a growing number of tenants are turning their personal economic situations into mass protests, demanding that legislators at all levels of government pass laws to cancel rent until the public health crisis is over. They call it a “rent strike” and it is just one tactic marking a dramatic new escalation in the long-running fight over affordable housing in California.
US Economy and Stock Market
More than 30 million Americans, representing 18.6% of the US labor force, have filed for unemployment. Millions of small businesses have requested forgivable loans to stay alive. the US GDP could decline at a breathtaking annualized rate of 40% during the second quarter. And yet the stock market is racking up massive gains. Even after retreating on Thursday, the S&P 500 spiked 13% in April. It was the best month for US stocks since January 1987. It’s common for Wall Street to price in a recovery long before Main Street feels it because investors look three to six months into the future
April 27 – America Getting Back to Business Despite 55,000 Deaths
As coronavirus cases near one million and more than 55,000 have died in the US, Georgia, Texas and other states are loosening their lockdowns.
Today Georgia allowed residents to dine at restaurants for the first time in a month, as more U.S. states began easing restrictions where the coronavirus outbreak has taken a light toll. Businesses like gyms, nail salons and tattoo parlors must adapt to new health guidelines such as masks for employees and keeping customers six feet apart.
The reopening of these businesses and spaces has drawn criticism and concern over whether it’s too soon for people to safely gather. The debate is split along party lines. Among Texas Republicans, 47% of those polled think the virus has either already been contained or will be contained enough in the next few weeks to allow activities like social gatherings, office work and sporting events. Only 12% of Democrats have similar expectations.
However, while “red states” are loosening restrictions, the San Francisco area has extended stay-at-home orders through the end of May.
April 21 – US Debates Reopening Businesses
The U.S. is nearing 800,000 Covid-19 cases and has more than 44,000 deaths. Globally, there are 2.5 million infections and more than 170,000 Covid-19 deaths.
The battle between the states and the federal government is heating up about when to open the economy and start letting people go back to work due to the coronavirus. Republican women protested the lockdown order in Dallas, while Texas reopens nonessential businesses for to-go service. Texas Lt. Governor Patrick claimed that the Texas death toll wasn’t high enough to warrant the state-wide shutdown. 19,458 Texans have been sickened from the virus, while 495 have died.
Meanwhile, Congress is voting on another round of stimulus funding for hospital and small business reliefe, and President Trump said he will sign an unprecedented executive order to temporarily suspend immigration to the U.S.
What’s It Like to Get Coronavirus?
According to a new study from Italy, 43% of people with the virus have no symptoms. Among those who do, it is common to feel congestion, fever, aches, and general malaise. While some start feeling better and eventually recover, other people become short of breath, their heart racing and mind detached from reality. They experience organ failure and spend weeks in the ICU if they survive at all.
Wednesday, April 15 – Worst Day for US Coronavirus Deaths
Yesterday in the US 2,228 Americans died from Covid-19, a single-day record. The US now has 600,000 cases which is three time mores than any other country, and 26,000 deaths. There are nearly 2 million cases worldwide, but the actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, unreported cases and some governments hiding the scope of their outbreaks.
The coronavirus lockdown has crippled the economy, with at least 15 million of Americans losing their jobs in the past three weeks. Unlike other economic downturns that hurt real estate or manufacturing, the nation-wide lockdown has the biggest impact on services – from entertainment and dining to travel – where 80% of Americans are employed. For example, the TSA only screened 87,534 travelers yesterday compared to 2,208,688 on the same weekday last year – a 96% decrease. Even as coronavirus deaths are peaking, Governors are making plans to ease restrictions to restart the economy.
Trump Cuts Off WHO Funding
President Trump, claiming the organization mismanged and covered up the spread of coronavirus, cut off funding to the World Health Organization which falls under the United Nations. Trump has questioned US funding to the United Nations, withdrawn from global climate agreements and criticized the World Trade Organization – claiming they were ripping offs.
Trump’s Signature on Stimulus Checks Delays Disbursements
The IRS is adding President Trump’s signature to paper stimulus checks, even though it could delay mailing them by a week. The signature is ornamental, as he’s not authorized to sign those checks. Physical checks are being mailed to mainly low-income Americans without bank accounts for direct deposit.
Thursday, April 9 – 1.5 Million Covid-19 Cases Worldwide
As of Thursday morning, more than 1.49 million coronavirus cases had been diagnosed worldwide, including more than 432,000 in the U.S., the most infected country in the world. Of the 432,596 confirmed US cases, New York state has 159,937 and 7,067 deaths.
Covid-19 Cases by Country
- USA 432,596
- Spain 152,446
- Italy 139,422
- Germany 113,615
- France 83,080
- China 82,883
- Iran 66,220
- UK 61,497
- Turkey 38,226
14 Million Americans Jobless in Last Three Weeks
New Labor Department figures on Thursday showed that 6.6 million Americans made initial unemployment claims last week, bringing the three-week total to more than 14 million. The unemployment rate had at a historic 50-year low but when the next monthly figures are calculated, it could be as high as 15%. The jobless rate peaked at 24.9% in the 1930s Depression while it hit 10% in October 2009 in the Great Recession.
Covid-19 Vaccine Will Take At Least a Year
While there’s no cure for Covid-19, there are attempts to treat it, including various vaccines in different stages of testing.
Wednesday, April 8 – Wuhan, China Lifts Lockdown
After a 2 1/2 month lockdown in Wuhan, China, where the Covid-19 outbreak originated, travel restrictions were lifted, stores reopened and trains were running. Norway, Denmark, Austria and the Czech Republic are easing restrictions even as a second wave of infections hits several Asian countries.
However, a study said that keeping the social distancing measures in place until early April could delay the “second wave” until early October. If the ban were lifted too soon, it could happen as soon as August. According to scientific studies, tiny particles carrying the coronavirus can linger in the air longer than was originally thought, driving home the importance of avoiding packed indoor spaces.
Monday, April 6 – Peak Death Week in the US
With 350,000 cases and 10,000 deaths, a US health official said the country is in the “peak death week,” even though US hospitals are already facing severe shortages of personal protective equipment, ventilators, testing supplies and staff.
New York has 4,758 coronavirus-related deaths, 3,100 of them in New York City, where trenches are being dug in Central Park as temporary mass graves.
More than 90% of Americans are under stay-at-home orders issued by states.
Thursday, April 2 – Nearly One Million Cases Worldwide
More than 939,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported worldwide, and over 47,000 people have died.
Initial estimates of US unemployment claims were low, with 6.6 million actual first-time claims in the week ending March 28 — a new historic high. Including the prior week’s 3.3 million initial claims, Americans have filed nearly 10 million jobless claims in the last two weeks alone, putting the unemployment rate above 10%. However, predictions call for unemployment up to 30%.
The FBI reported 3.7 million gun purchase background checks in the month of March, a 41% surge that shows people are buying guns.
Wednesday, April 1 – 100,000 – 240,000 Americans Will Die from Covid-19
April Fools Days was canceled as Covid-19 cases surged to 903,819 with 45,335 deaths worldwide, according to Worldometer data tracker. In the US, cases topped 200,000, while deaths rose to 4,394. New York cases jumped to 83,712, with 1,941 deaths.
Between 100,000 and 240,000 US deaths are predicted, assuming the lockdown is effective at stopping the spread. If not, then more than one millions Americans could die. By comparison, there are 20,000-50,000 deaths per year from seasonal flu, and 150,000 from chronic respiratory disease, which is the #4 cause of death in the US and a high-risk condition for catching the coronavirus. In New York City, where an emergency hospital occupies Central Park, FEMA sent 85 refrigerated trucks to serve as temporary morgues. In Las Vegas 500 residents of a homeless shelter were forced to sleep in a parking lot, while rooms in nearby hotels and resorts are empty.
US unemployment claims are estimated at 7 million the past two weeks, or just under 10% of the near-record 71% of working-age Americans who were employed just two months ago. The $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package, or Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is making it easier for workers to seek unemployment benefits. However, President Trump will not open a special enrollment period for Obamacare that would have made it easier for people to enroll without paperwork proving loss of health insurance.
Monday, March 30 – US Cases Surpass China, Deaths to Peak in Two Weeks
Global deaths from the virus have surpassed 30,000, with more than 10,000 of those in Italy. Spain reported its highest increase in coronavirus deaths Sunday but saw a drop in infection rate.
At 137,000, the US surpassed China and Italy with coronavirus cases. The US has 2,400 deaths, but the death toll is expected to peak in another two weeks. A Navy hospital ship docked in New York City, where some patients must share one ventilator or go without, and refrigerated trucks hold bodies because the morgues are full.
Stocks turned positive last week with the Dow more than 20% from its recent low as lawmakers and central bankers around the world made progress on relief and stimulus measures. President Trump extended social distancing guidance until April 30, where last week he wanted the US economy back in the swing by Easter, April 12th.
Thursday, March 26 – 1/4 of the World’s People are in Lockdown
With India declaring a lockdown, it means almost 3 billion people in 70 countries are staying home.
US deaths from Covid-19 reached 1,000 today. The Senate passed a coronavirus stimulus bill, on which the House will vote Friday. The Senate vote was delayed last night while Democrats reinserted prohibitions for President Trump’s receiving any bailout money.
New York City is scrambling to find more hospital beds and ventilators, as patients die in emergency rooms. 2,000 ventilators from the national stockpile, but has less than half of the 30,000 it needs.
Wednesday, March 25 – US Stimulus Deal Reached as Unemployment Surges
Spain now has 3,434 deaths from Covid-19 – more fatalities than in China – up 27% from the day before. In Madrid, an ice skating rink has been converted to a mass morgue.
In New York City, where 192 people have died from Covid-19, hospitals are already nearing capacity. New York accounts for 60% of US cases, and cases have doubled every three days. Ventilators and intensive care beds are already in short supply, and estimates say twice as many will be needed. In New York City, where 15,000 are infected, residents are leaving in droves.
In the US the House and Senate reached a deal on a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package. The stimulus would send $1,200 to individuals making less than $75K per year, and a lesser amount for those who earn between $75-$99K. The income limits for couples in double, and gives an extra $500 per child to families. Payouts would cover about 90% of Americans.
The Federal plan boosts unemployment insurance payments $600 a week on top of state benefits for four months. The program also provides jobless benefits to independent contractors, gig economy workers and the self-employed, who typically don’t qualify for unemployment.
While politicians first spoke of getting money in the hands of Americans “within two weeks”, the reality is that the process could take longer. In 2001, it took six weeks for the IRS to start sending out rebate checks authorized by President George W. Bush’s tax cut.
Projections estimate new US unemployment claims will be over 2 million this week, a spike so large and unprecedented that all economic predictions are suspect. However, some project the unemployment to cap around 9%, slightly less than the peak of the Great Recession in 2009.
Tuesday, March 24 – Italy Deaths Nearly Double China
Worldwide, there are over 392,700 confirmed cases and more than 17,200 deaths. Most new cases of coronavirus are now outside of China – in the US and Europe – with Italy the hardest hit and Spain close behind. Today in Italy 64,000 infections are reported with 6,000 deaths, and Spain has 40,000 cases and 2,700 deaths. With 6,733 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 336 deaths, UK is declaring a lockdown of citizens.
China has 3,281 deaths, but cases have steadily declined since February. More than 73,000 of the 81,588 confirmed cases have recovered, and the lockdown in Wuhan, China where the outbreak started is set to lift on April 8.
In the US there are 46,481 confirmed cases of the virus and 593 deaths. New York has the most cases with over 20,800. Congress is still debating and adding amendments to a stimulus bill that would send checks to Americans and extend unemployment benefits, among other measures.
As non-essential businesses close, others are hiring frantically. Help wanted signs and billboards advertise immediate jobs for food delivery, at supermarkets such as Kroger and Albertsons, pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, convenience and discount stores like Dollar General and 7-Eleven, and retail giants like Amazon and Walmart.
On the news of a stimulus, today traders bought back some of the worst-hit stocks, such as Boeing and Chevron, driving the Dow Jones industrials to a gain of around 8.5%. The S&P 500 jumped more than 7%, but crude oil futures dropped to $24.01 due to slack demand and the Russia / OPEC price war.
Friday, March 20 – Italy Deaths Exceed China’s, UK Shuts Down
Amid growing coronavirus shut-downs, the US moved tax day from April 15 to July 15, and student loan payments can be deferred. Illinois will shelter in place starting Saturday, and New York is preparing for a state-wide lockdown starting Sunday night when only essential businesses remain open. New York City has reported 5,100 coronavirus cases so far.
The death toll from coronavirus in Italy has surpassed China. In the UK the Prime Minister announced a nationwide lockdown, ordering cafes, pubs, and restaurants to close tonight and not reopen. The government will pay 80% of wages to those out of work up to $2,900US per month.
An economic report predicted that infections will peak globally by the third quarter of 2020, with the recovery beginning in the second half of next year. Today an economist said the economic downturn may be less severe than the deep recessions of 1981-82 and 2008-09, but worse than the mild recessions of 1991 and 2001. The S&P 500 has plunged by around 30% since its all-time high on Feb. 19 – just one month ago. After the stock market crash of Oct. 29, 1929, the S&P 500 fell 86% in less than three years and did not regain its previous peak until 1954.
Thursday, March 19 – Fatalities Grow
Today global deaths passed 9,300 with more than 230,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19. Italy now has 3,400 deaths – more than in China where the virus originated. In the US there were more than 10,750 confirmed cases, up from about 1,600 a week earlier, when there were 40 reported deaths. Deaths jumped to 154 across 22 states – including the first reported fatalities in Connecticut, Michigan, Missouri, and Pennsylvania.
Wednesday, March 18 – Coronavirus Infections Double in Two Weeks
As of this morning, there were 6,519 cases and 114 deaths in the US, and 201,000 cases and 8,000 deaths worldwide. More new cases are reported in Europe each day than in China at the height of the epidemic, leading some to wonder if less authoritarian countries can stop the spread.
The IRS is giving more time to pay taxes, while President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act so the private sector can ramp-up manufacturing and distribution of emergency medical supplies and equipment such as masks, ventilators, and respirators. Trump also order Navy hospital ships deployed to the American coasts.
General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler closed all US factories due to the coronavirus. Ford said it plans to close its factories in the US, Canada, and Mexico.
Tuesday, March 17 – New Reality Sets In
Forecasts say the US could lose up to one million jobs in April alone, which would be worse than the steepest job loss during any month of the Great Recession 10 years ago. The Trump Administration’s emergency stimulus proposal sounds more like the Democratic candidate debates, with talk of sending money to Americans immediately, except for millionaires. San Francisco is already under a “shelter in place” order, with New York City soon to follow. In Kentucky, a Covid-19 patient’s home isolation is enforced by police after he checked himself out of the hospital, but in Florida half-naked college students still congregated on the beach. Countries worldwide are closing borders, nobody is allowed outside in Italy, and in France, all gatherings are banned.
In the US life changed over the past two days by social distancing from people and public places, and many people financially strained or out of work. While the focus is on containing the spread over the next two weeks, preventive measures may be needed for months or even a year until a vaccine is made.
Monday, March 16 – the US Shuts Down as New Cases in China Decline
There are now more coronavirus cases outside China than inside as global infections stand at 167,000 and 6,000 deaths. The number of infections in Europe is growing faster than in China during the height of its outbreak, where new cases are decreasing. Iran has the worst outbreak in the Middle East.
The Australian stock market had the biggest decline ever, the price of oil continued to drop, and in the UK the FTSE fell another 6%. The Dow and S&P 500 indexes had their biggest one-day losses since 1987, falling at least 12%, respectively, and the Nasdaq Composite had its biggest one-day plunge ever, tumbling 12.3%. Even the price of gold fell as people sold assets in a “dash for cash”.
Most states and cities closed restaurants, bars, and gyms, Las Vegas casinos are closing, beaches are closed, while other states and restaurant chains now offer only pickup or delivery, and Hoboken, NJ declared a city-wide curfew at night.
Friday the 13th – Everything is Canceled, Everywhere
President Trump today declared a national emergency with tallies of 1,700 cases and 40 deaths from coronavirus. In a press conference, Trump announced plans to catch up on testing capacity with emergency approval from the FDA for tests, and partnership with drug companies and even Walmart and Target who volunteered their parking lots for drive-through testing. The US is short on tests and testing procedures because it rejected a test provided by the World Health Organization, and had the CDC make their own, flawed version. Plus, siloed public and private healthcare in the US means there’s no national testing procedures or even a central tracking database.
Schools have extended spring break, sporting events have barred spectators, parades, church services, and concerts are canceled, Disneyland is closed, and the NBA season has been postponed. Airlines have canceled flights and laid-off workers, and restaurants are closing seating areas, operating only the drive-through. US stock markets recovered nearly 10% today on news of the national emergency and federal stimulus proposals but were down 10% for the week.
Over the weekend Australia imposed a fourteen-day quarantine for all new arrivals, UK announced plans to isolate those over 70 years old, and testing of Americans inbound from Europe saw confusion and long delays at US airports. Uneasy citizens practiced “social distancing” as prescribed by health officials, even while queuing to panic buy any remaining toilet paper and bottled water left on the shelves. Some health officials say more than half the population of some countries may become infected, so the priority is containment and quarantine to “flatten the curve” of infections so the spike of patients doesn’t overwhelm the fixed capacity of healthcare supply. On Sunday, the US Federal Reserve cut interest rates to almost zero and launched a $700B stimulus program.
And for the first time in recent memory, news headlines were free of Greta Thunberg.
March 12 – Stocks Dive After US Bans Travel From Europe
President Trump banned non-Americans traveling to the US from 26 European countries, not including the UK and Ireland, effective tomorrow. Even worse, Ireland canceled St. Patrick’s Day festivities. The day ended with a 10% dive of US markets, the largest single-day decline since Black Monday in 1987.
March 11 – Pandemic Declared
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared Covid-19 a pandemic. In New York National Guard troops delivered food to people inside the quarantine zone in new Rochelle, just north of New York City. Google and other companies are telling employees to work from home. The worldwide death toll has surpassed 4,200, mostly in China, but at least 168 coronavirus victims died in Italy.
About 80% of the cases were mild, but the virus had a fatality rate of 2-3%. In comparison, the flu killed tens of thousands of Americans this winter, with a mortality rate of 0.05-0.1%.
In the US where there are more than 1,000 cases, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told Congress that Americans must immediately change their everyday lives to prevent catching or spreading the virus.
March 9 – Stock Market Drops
The FTSE index lost 8% before opening, and in the US the NYSE lost 6% which automatically halted trading temporarily. Oversupply and lower demand due to coronavirus, plus a crude oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia drove down markets sharply. Russia’s price war is part of Vladimir Putin’s strategy to take market share from Saudi Arabia and cripple shale-oil production in the US, where oil companies are preparing to cut investment and drilling plans due to plunging prices.
Beyond the economic impact on the coronavirus worldwide, traders are scared of Donald Trump losing the November election due to a stalled economy. Both indexes rebounded the next day on news the Federal government is working on a stimulus package for hard-hit industries, but remain down from historic highs only a month ago.
March 2 – Hoarding Begins in the US
The beginning of March saw “spontaneous” cases in the US and American online shoppers searching Google for “can you get coronavirus buying products from China”. Conferences and sporting events worldwide have been canceled, and Italy has closed all schools.
With US deaths from #COVID19 still in single digits, the first days of March saw Walmart, Home Depot, pharmacies and hardware stores already running out of N95 respirator masks. Price gouging quickly followed on Amazon where shoppers searched for “N95 Mask” almost a million times in February, compared to a few thousand searches in December. The CDC is stockpiling respirators for healthcare workers, even while saying that wearing a surgical mask (alone) doesn’t stop virus spread in the general population.
February 2020 – Coronavirus Named, Continues Spreading
The new official name for the virus, Covid-19, was announced as the death toll reached 1,000. In China, the lunar new year holiday was extended to help stop the spread of the virus. Major factories closed, airlines suspended service, and uncertainty caused sell-offs in stock markets.
South Korea had the most cases outside China, spread in the compound of the religious group Shincheonji Church of Jesus. The Diamond Princess cruise ship was initially not allowed to dock after some of the 3,700 passengers contracted Covid-19. American passengers were evacuated and spent 14 days in quarantine on military bases before being released. Other passengers remained aboard for 14 days and were allowed to leave only after testing negative for the virus. Among the first infections in Iran was the Deputy of Health. To prevent panic Iranian police arrested citizens for spreading rumors about the virus on social media. At a White House briefing, President Trump announced Vice President Mike Pence would be “in charge” of the U.S. response to the coronavirus. Trump claimed “tremendous success” in keeping US infections low, citing travel restrictions and promising to spend billions to fight the outbreak.
February ended with Covid-19 infecting more than 80,000 people and killing nearly 2,800. The virus has spread to 47 countries, with the most cases in China. While there are only a handful of cases in the US, the CDC warned Americans to brace for its spread. Thanks to social media and the hashtag #Covid19, new cases worldwide are reported and quarantined almost instantly, but health officials warn the virus could still develop into a pandemic.
January – Flu and Virus Outbreaks and the Employment Rate
Cities in China went into lockdown over deaths from a new SARS-like coronavirus that likely jumped from animal to human in a seafood market known for sales of bushmeat. First detected in the central city of Wuhan with 11 million residents, the “Wuhan flu”, officially named 2019-nCoV, spread to Huanggang and other cities quickly. Chinese authorities halted all planes, trains, and busses, and closed cafes, cinemas, and theaters during the Chinese New Year to slow the spread.
In the US, airports are screening visitors from areas infected by Wuhan flu, while an early start to the flu season and a rise in B strain infections, against which the flu shot was ineffective, led to millions of cases and thousands of deaths. High employment helps spread the flu, with each 1-percentage point increase in the employment rate leading to a 16% rise in flu-related doctors’ visits. The US employment rate is nearly 72% or pre-2008 recession level.