The Seattle area, home of the first known coronavirus case in the United States and the place where the virus claimed 37 of its first 50 victims, is now seeing evidence that strict containment strategies, imposed in the earliest days of the outbreak, are beginning to pay off. While each infected person was spreading the virus to an average of 2.7 other people earlier in March, that number appears to have dropped, with one projection suggesting that it was now down to 1.4.
Some Wuhan residents who had tested positive earlier and then recovered from the disease are testing positive for the virus a second time. Based on data from several quarantine facilities in the city, which house patients for further observation after their discharge from hospitals, about 5%-10% of patients pronounced "recovered" have tested positive again. Some of those who retested positive appear to be asymptomatic carriers — those who carry the virus and are possibly infectious but do not exhibit any of the illness's associated symptoms — suggesting that the outbreak in Wuhan is not close to being over. [NPR]
Report of Urns Stacked at Wuhan Funeral Homes Raises Questions About the Real Coronavirus Death Toll in China + Estimates Show Wuhan Death Toll Far Higher Than Official Figure -- "because the incinerators have been working round the clock, so how can so few people have died?"
Simple DIY masks could help flatten the curve. We should all wear them in public. [...] My data-focused research institute, fast.ai, has found 34 scientific papers indicating basic masks can be effective in reducing virus transmission in public — and not a single paper that shows clear evidence that they cannot. [Washington Post]
sars-CoV-2 behaves like a monstrous mutant hybrid of all the human coronaviruses that came before it. It can infect and replicate throughout our airways. “That’s why it is so bad,” Stanley Perlman, a professor of microbiology and immunology who has been studying coronaviruses for more than three decades, told me. “It has the lower-respiratory severity of sars and mers coronaviruses, and the transmissibility of cold coronaviruses.” [New Yorker]
The Race for Virus Money Is On. Lobbyists Are Standing By. -- A South Carolina company has hired a lobbyist close to President Trump to try to win regulatory approval to sell a misting spray to kill coronavirus on airplanes. A Manhattan company is seeking money from the $2 trillion stimulus package for its quick-change recyclable hospital curtains. [NY Times]
Last week wholesale egg prices rose more than 50 percent in some parts of the country, because of demand; eggs have been running low if not sold out altogether in many stores in the United States. The egg supply is normal, of course; demand just grew significantly. [...] Compared with usual chick sales in March, sales at Hackett Farm Supply in Clinton Corners, N.Y., have nearly doubled. “People are willing to take breeds that aren’t their first choice just to get a flock started now,” said Stephanie Spann, the store manager.
The email came from the boss. We’re watching you, it told Axos Financial Inc. employees working from home. We’re capturing your keystrokes. We’re logging the websites you visit. Every 10 minutes or so, we’re taking a screen shot. So get to work — or face the consequences. [Bloomberg]
How COVID-19 Led Merriam-Webster to Make Its Fastest Update Ever [Thanks Andrea!]
In China, 52.9 percent of men smoke, in contrast to just 2.4 percent of women; further analysis of the emerging COVID-19 data from China could help determine if this disparity is contributing to the higher mortality observed in men compared to women
He recalls bringing it to one veteran Democratic member. “I said, ‘I need to talk to you about something important,’” says Baird. “He said, ‘What’s that?’ I said, ‘You know, we don’t have a valid process for replacing House members if we’re all killed by a terrorist attack.’” “He said, ‘What do I care? I’ll be dead.’” Why Is Congress Still Meeting in Person?
When Boeing made its humble plea for $60 billion in coronavirus relief funds on Saint Patrick’s Day 2020, leading the pack of corporate supplicants, all its assembly lines unrelated to its notorious self-hijacking 737 Max jets, whose production halted in January, were still operating at normal capacity. They were still open in spite of the fact that Seattle public schools had been closed for six days at that point, in spite of the fact that every restaurant and bar in the state had been closed the weekend earlier, and in spite of the fact that the disease was quickly spreading among the factory workers, one of whom, a 27-year veteran of the company, would die within days. And they were still running in spite of the fact that demand for Boeing planes, thanks to the 737 crashes, is at an all-time low, with the company in January, a month in which its archrival Airbus sold 274 planes, reporting its first month in history without a single order. Which is to say, I can think of a lot of reasons Boeing might need a bailout. In December a space capsule the company designed to transport astronauts to the International Space Station failed to launch into orbit during a test mission because its timer was eleven hours off, a potentially half billion dollar mistake that may cost the company billions more in lost NASA business to Elon Musk’s SpaceX. In January, the company revealed that its attempts to load a software fix onto the 737s was repeatedly crashing the planes’ computers. Not long after that, the company finally admitted that the three-year-delay on its KC-46 aerial refueling tanker was going to be, at minimum, another three years. And then of course there’s the $70 billion the company has squandered over the past decade on stock buybacks and dividend checks. What all of these problems have in common is that none of them has shit to do with coronavirus. And neither does the $500 billion corporate bailout the Senate appended to an otherwise vitally important relief package. [Moe Tkacik]
14 years ago, Larry Brilliant, the epidemiologist who helped eradicate smallpox, spoke to a TED audience and described what the next pandemic would look like. At the time, it sounded almost too horrible to take seriously. “A billion people would get sick," he said. “As many as 165 million people would die. There would be a global recession and depression, and the cost to our economy of $1 to $3 trillion would be far worse for everyone than merely 100 million people dying, because so many more people would lose their jobs and their health care benefits, that the consequences are almost unthinkable.” [...] Larry Brilliant: “The whole epidemiological community has been warning everybody for the past 10 or 15 years that it wasn't a question of whether we were going to have a pandemic like this. It was simply when. [...] By slowing down the curve, or flattening it, we're not going to decrease the total number of cases, we're going to postpone many cases, until we get a vaccine—which we will, because there's nothing in the virology that makes me frightened that we won’t get a vaccine in 12 to 18 months. [...] The world is not going to begin to look normal until three things have happened. One, we figure out whether the distribution of this virus looks like an iceberg, which is one-seventh above the water, or a pyramid, where we see everything. If we're only seeing right now one-seventh of the actual disease because we're not testing enough, and we're just blind to it, then we're in a world of hurt. Two, we have a treatment that works, a vaccine or antiviral. And three, maybe most important, we begin to see large numbers of people—in particular nurses, home health care providers, doctors, policemen, firemen, and teachers who have had the disease—are immune, and we have tested them to know that they are not infectious any longer. And we have a system that identifies them, either a concert wristband or a card with their photograph and some kind of a stamp on it. Then we can be comfortable sending our children back to school, because we know the teacher is not infectious.” [WIRED]