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  • As word of an impending ban on travel to the United States spread in Barcelona, panic spread among travelers frantic to return to the U.S. It fueled a chaotic scene before the sun had even come up Thursday morning in Barcelona’s El Prat airport as hundreds faced five-hour waits in lines to find that tickets home were either unavailable or unaffordable.


  • Coronavirus testing in the United States appears to be proceeding with a marked lack of urgency. An examination of state and federal records by Yahoo News finds that American states are, on average, testing fewer than 100 people per day — while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had tested fewer than 100 people total in the first two days of this week.


  • Trenches in city of Qom confirm worst fears about extent of the epidemic and the government’s subsequent cover-upSatellite images of mass graves in the city of Qom suggest Iran’s coronavirus epidemic is even more serious than the authorities are admitting.The pictures, first published by the New York Times, show the excavation of a new section in a cemetery on the northern fringe of Iran’s holy city in late February, and two long trenches dug, of a total length of 100 yards, by the end of the month.They confirm the worst fears about the extent of the epidemic and the government’s subsequent cover-up. On 24 February, at the time the trenches were being dug, a legislator from Qom, 75 miles (120 km) south of Tehran, accused the health ministry of lying about the scale of the outbreak, saying there had already been 50 deaths in the city, at a time when the ministry was claiming only 12 people had died from the virus nationwide.The deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, held a press conference to “categorically deny” the allegations, but he was clearly sweating and coughing as he did so. The next day, Harirchi confirmed that he had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.Since then, members of Iranian parliament, the Majlis, a former diplomat and a senior adviser to the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, have died. Another Khamenei adviser and one of the most powerful voices in Iranian foreign policy, Ali Akbar Velayati, was reported on Thursday to have been infected. The top ranks of Iran’s clerical leadership are particularly vulnerable because of their advanced age.According to the latest health ministry figures, more than 10,000 Iranians have fallen ill from the virus and 429 have died.Amir Afkhami, who has written a history of Iran’s experience of cholera epidemics, A Modern Contagion, said the mass graves add weight to suspicions the real mortality figures are much higher and are still being covered by the leadership.“It doesn’t surprise me that they are now trying to create mass graves and trying to hide the actual extent of the impact of the disease,” Dr Afkhami, an associate professor at George Washington University, said.He added that the close trading partnership between Iran and China, and the government’s fear of disrupting that partnership had contributed to the early and rapid spread of the disease.“Because of China’s status as the country’s principal commercial partner, the Iranian government took inadequate cautionary measures to restrict and monitor travelers from China,” Dr Afkhami said. “Then, later on, Tehran’s lack of transparency and unwillingness to take robust measures such as social distancing and quarantine, particularly at the epicenter of the outbreak, helped spread the virus.”


  • A congressional official told CBS News the four congressional leaders were notified of Biden's request Thursday.


  • McNamara told Yahoo News he doesn’t intend to keep pushing health officials to be tested for COVID-19.


  • O’Shaughnessy said the Russian aircraft loitered about 2,500 feet above a camp that was established for the submarine exercise. He said the Russian aircraft “loitered” with an F-22 and and F-18 on their wing.


  • Italy's death toll from the coronavirus epidemic shot past 1,000 on Thursday as the economic impact worsened, with much of the country at a standstill and the Milan bourse posting its largest ever one-day fall. Looking to halt the spread of the disease, the government introduced yet more restrictions on Italians, ordering the blanket, nationwide closure of restaurants, bars and almost all shops except for food stores and chemists. Most Italians were stoical in the face of the unprecedented disruption.


  • Doomsday mom Lori Vallow is trying to get an Idaho judge booted from her case while she sits in jail, unable to raise enough money to bail out.It’s not clear why Vallow—who has refused to cooperate with the investigation into her missing children—wants Madison County Magistrate Judge Faren Eddins disqualified; her lawyer’s filing didn’t give a reason.She appeared before Eddins last week, requesting that her $5 million bail be lowered to $10,000. Eddins lowered it to $1 million, but Vallow hasn’t been able to secure a bond.Bizarre Email Is Latest Clue in Saga of Doomsday Couple With Missing KidsA number of bondsmen have been in touch with Vallow, but none have been willing to take her on.“It’s not about the money. I told her I don’t want to write the bond. I’d rather just have this go away if she would provide where the kids are located,” Danielle Kingston told East Idaho News this week.“If she could provide that assurance and proof of life, this goes away. But she has rights—including her right to bail.”Vallow’s 17-year-old daughter Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old son J.J. have not been seen since September, and when police started making inquiries, she and husband Chad Daybell picked up and moved to Hawaii.She was ordered to return to Idaho and produce the kids. When she didn’t, she was arrested on charges of child desertion, contempt of court, and promoting a criminal act and extradited from Hawaii.In addition to hunting for the kids—who police have said are in danger—authorities are also investigating the death of Vallow’s last husband, Charles, who was shot dead by her brother, Alex Cox, who has also since died under mysterious circumstances.They are also looking into the death of Daybell’s last wife, Tammy, whose body has been exhumed for an autopsy. Daybell, the author of novels about near-death experiences and the apocalypse, and Vallow, who is also obsessed with doomsday scenarios, got married weeks after Tammy’s death from unknown causes.Vallow was supposed to make another court appearance next week, but both her attorney and the prosecutor have asked to postpone it until May because they are gathering more evidence.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


  • The next Democratic debate is getting a location change, and losing a moderator, because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Democratic National Committee said on Thursday it would move this Sunday's presidential debate from Phoenix to CNN's studio in Washington, D.C. "out of an abundance of caution and in order to reduce cross-country travel," NBC News reports. Additionally, Univision's Jorge Ramos, who was set to moderate the debate, will no longer do so because he "was in proximity with someone who was in direct contact with a person that tested positive for coronavirus," per The New York Times. Ramos has been cleared by medical professionals, according to NBC. Ilia Calderón is set to take Ramos' place in the debate. The DNC previously announced that the debate, which will be a face-off between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), will happen without a live audience. More stories from theweek.com Trump reportedly rejected aggressive coronavirus testing in hopes it would help his re-election Why Trump fears Biden The entire country of Norway is 'shutting down'


  • National security adviser Robert O’Brien defended President Trump’s response to the coronavirus and blamed the Chinese government for covering up the initial outbreak of an illness the World Health Organization declared Wednesday is now a pandemic.


  • As the rest of the world is engulfed in the coronavirus pandemic, China says it has turned the tide against the disease that has killed thousands of people. The first case emerged in the central city of Wuhan on December 8 before several workers at Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market began to fall sick with a fever. On December 31, Wuhan health authorities announced 27 cases of suspected viral pneumonia linked to the market and notified the World Health Organization.


  • Iran said Thursday it asked the International Monetary Fund for a $5 billion loan to fight the coronavirus, the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that it has sought such assistance, in a staggering admission of how fragile its economy has become amid the epidemic and punishing U.S. sanctions. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that the Washington-based IMF should “stand on right side of history & act responsibly” by releasing the funds. Iran's Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati said he asked for the $5 billion loan last week in a letter to IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva.


  • A dramatic video captured by an MNPD camera shows a tornado ripping through a Germantown intersection in Nashville.


  • Jerry Falwell Jr. spread misinformation about the coronavirus during a segment on 'Fox & Friends' this morning.


  • The entire female body of the Utah Senate staged a walkout in protest of an abortion bill mandating women to be shown the foetus on an ultrasound before being allowed to have the procedure.All six female members of the Senate refused to vote on the bill and left the room, leaving only male peers to vote on Wednesday.


  • Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden has formally requested protection from the U.S. Secret Service, according to two people familiar with the matter.


  • A female diplomat from the Philippines mission to the United Nations tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday, according to a note sent to U.N. missions, making the woman the first known case at the world body's New York headquarters. According to the online U.N. directory of diplomatic staff, there are about 12 diplomats at the Filipino mission, which is on 5th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.


  • Foxx seeks a second term as three Democratic primary challengers seize on the Smollett case and a fractured relationship with police.


  • Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) decided on Wednesday to drop a subpoena of a former Ukrainian embassy official as part of an ongoing probe into Burisma and the Bidens, saying instead that he would “go straight to the source” and subpoena Blue Star Strategies, the U.S. firm which lobbied on behalf of Burisma.Citing “an abundance of caution” and “time for you to receive additional briefings,” Johnson told his colleagues in a letter on Wednesday that he would “postpone” the vote to subpoena Andrii Telizhenko, who worked for Blue Star."While we work through those questions, at the suggestion of both Republican and Democrat Committee members, we will instead go straight to the source and compel the same records and an appearance directly from Blue Star Strategies,” he added.The probe is focused on how Blue Star Strategies attempted to “leverage Hunter Biden’s role as a board member of Burisma to gain access to, and potentially influence matters at, the State Department,” according to a Johnson letter earlier this month. The Wisconsin Republican said last week that he was in possession of a document from Blue Star which apologized for a “misinformation campaign” against Ukrainian prosecutor Victor Shokin, who Joe Biden bragged about getting fired.Johnson, who asked the State Department for records on the matter Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) in November, has drawn criticism from Democratic lawmakers over his investigations, over fears that they are politically motivated — with President Trump consistently pointing to the Bidens’s “corrupt” dealings in Ukraine.Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) sent a letter Wednesday to the inspectors general for the State Department, Treasury Department, Department of Homeland Security and the National Archives, over fears of a “really concerning double standard.”Senator Mitt Romney (R., Utah) initially expressed concerns on the probe, saying “there’s no question that the appearance of looking into Burisma and Hunter Biden appears political,” only to acquiesce after speaking with Johnson and being reassured that his subpoena would occur “without a hearing or public spectacle.”Romney did not return a request for comment on whether he was involved in the decision to target Blue Star directly.


  • HONG KONG—Bombastic Chinese government officials are laying the groundwork to blame the United States for the global coronavirus pandemic, and in turn extricate the Chinese Communist Party from any blame. Trumpian rhetoric, it seems, has a clear mirror reflection on the other side of the globe. The American president calls the pandemic sweeping the globe “a foreign virus”? The Chinese are calling it an American one.Zhao Lijian, the spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry and face of the CCP, insinuated by tweet in both English and Chinese on Thursday that the United States is behind the the novel coronavirus outbreak in China: “CDC was caught on the spot. When did patient zero begin in U.S.? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be U.S. army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! U.S. owe us an explanation!”The rant was inexplicably paired with a video clip from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield’s testimony before Congress on Wednesday, subtitled in Chinese, about Americans who may have been misdiagnosed with the flu when they actually had COVID-19, the disease brought on by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.Zhao’s creeping escalation of rhetoric is the latest example of the Chinese Communist Party’s attempt to shift blame after its officials bungled efforts to contain the virus at the onset of the outbreak. And who better than its key geopolitical foe—the United States—to be the scapegoat?The claim by Zhao was first seeded in late February, when Zhong Nanshan, a seasoned epidemiologist and pulmonologist who identified the SARS virus in 2003, said that the coronavirus “may not have originated in China” even though the first known cases were in the city of Wuhan and the majority of confirmed infections were there and in the rest of Hubei province.It didn’t take long for state media and Chinese trolls to grab hold of Zhong’s talking point, merging it with the crackpot theory that the coronavirus is a bioweapon. Soon they were asking which nation has sophisticated biowarfare capabilities and can release its viral weapons to wipe out an unsuspecting population. The obvious conclusion, for them, was the United States.Simultaneously, on Chinese social networks like Weibo, hashtags for the “Japanese virus” and the “Iranian virus” helped shape the narrative that SARS-CoV-2 could be of foreign origin, and China merely got a raw deal. Now, the “Italian virus” tag is doing the same.Never mind that Chinese researchers, like Shi Zhengli, the “Bat Woman” virologist profiled by Scientific American, have conducted field research in China’s rural areas to locate and identify dozens of lethal viruses that are similar to SARS and the coronavirus that is now infecting many around the world. They recognize that there are many more strains that could make the leap to humans, causing new viral outbreaks like the one China went through in the past three months.Like Trump, Zhao has a history of posting combative outbursts on Twitter, which is banned in China except for some of the party’s officials. He is one of the first Chinese diplomats to register and run an official account on Twitter—and the first to weaponize his feed, rallying China’s paid trolls through talking points spewed onto the social network. Last August, he was promoted from his post as deputy chief of mission in Pakistan to become deputy director of the Chinese foreign ministry’s information department.That’s all to say, in an age of post-truth misinformation and disinformation, Zhao is Beijing’s vociferous master of spin. Other Chinese officials often echo his talking points online. There is little doubt that the CCP’s ranks coordinate the content of their Twitter feeds.As new infection numbers taper off to mere dozens per day in China, the pandemic is politicized more than ever. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan this week in what was essentially a victory tour for the country’s “war” against the virus. To prevent the embarrassing situation from the previous week, where residents shouted “It’s all fake!” from their balconies when a CCP official staged a photo op, two police officers were stationed in every apartment near locations where Xi was set to appear.Right now, people in mainland China and Hong Kong are baffled by the current situations in Western Europe and the United States. There have been months of warnings from Asia, and thousands have died from COVID-19, yet all of that was insufficient for many nations in the West to prepare for the virus’ landfall.“If it were purely a financial crisis in Asia—an illness of capital,” a venture investor said to me offhandedly this week, “institutions [in Europe and America] like banks and hedge funds would have reacted with no delay.” But public health, she suggested, wasn’t as much of a concern even in an era of globalization, when, normally, many millions of people are moved across continents each day.In the past three months, some of those who suffered in China thought their cases would be signals of a global threat. That their warning signs were mostly ignored may serve to feed Zhao’s disinformation suggesting the U.S. is behind it all.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


  • Editor’s note: The coronavirus that has claimed more than 4,000 lives worldwide and sickened more than 113,000 most likely originated in bats, most experts believe. From bats, the virus “jumped” to another species, likely pangolins, and then to humans. Why didn’t the virus make bats or pangolins sick? As it turns out, viruses are complicated – in addition to sometimes being deadly. 1\. How does this new virus differ from other coronaviruses?The family Coronaviridae contains about 39 different species of coronaviruses. Of these, only seven coronaviruses have been reported to infect and cause disease in people. Four coronaviruses cause mild symptoms similar to the common cold, but three coronaviruses cause severe and possibly deadly infections: the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and now, SARS-CoV2, which is responsible for the current coronavirus disease COVID-19. SARS-CoV2 is a cousin of the coronavirus that caused SARS, having about 79% similarity in its genetic makeup. Though similar, these two viruses are not the same, and their disease manifestations are different. SARS was recognized at the end of February 2003 in China. Worldwide, 8,098 people became sick with SARS and 774 died, with the disease having a mortality rate of 10%. MERS-CoV was first identified in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. Globally, MERS-CoV was responsible for 2,494 MERS cases and 858 deaths, with a mortality rate of 37%.The ongoing SARS-CoV2 epidemic and the rate of infection and mortality seem different than both SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. As of March 10, the U.S. has 866 COVID-19 cases with 28 deaths, while 45 cases have been reported in Canada. It seems that SARS-CoV2 is less deadly than the other two coronavirus strains, but it is more contagious. 2\. Some people are saying COVID might become endemic. What does this mean?Aggressive diseases like SARS give rise to epidemics – outbreaks where the number of new cases flares up rapidly in a region. Effective, evidence-based public health measures reduce the number of new patients infected, until these aggressive diseases are controlled. In contrast, an endemic disease is constantly present in a certain geographic region. A good example of an endemic disease is malaria, which is constantly present in tropical regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America. The 2003 SARS epidemic was controlled by a combination of effective international surveillance methods and local, evidence-based public health measures. International surveillance systems alerted the authorities of the emergence of a novel disease, helping set up guidance for travelers, airlines and crew. It also set in motion a global response that prevented the spread of the disease, and helped the local public health efforts to identify and quarantine infected people. Effectively, this combined response prevented SARS from becoming endemic. By July 2003, four months from the onset of the outbreak, human-to-human transmission of SARS had stopped. 3\. How do these viruses jump to humans?The majority of new diseases affecting humans are zoonotic, meaning that they originate in wild animals (mostly mammals) and then cross over to people. Among mammals, bats have a higher number of zoonotic viruses. These viruses might cause mild to no symptoms in bats. People and animals interacting with bats (or their urine, feces or saliva) might catch these zoonotic viruses and then spread them to other animals or people. The trapping of wild animals for pets, food or medicinal purposes puts wild animals like bats in close contacts with other animals and people. That is what happened in the previous two coronavirus outbreaks. In the 2003 outbreak, the SARS coronavirus jumped from bats to civets being sold as food in a market, and then from civets to people. In the MERS outbreak, the MERS coronavirus jumped from bats to camels and from camels to people. As a result of the COVID-19 epidemic, China placed a permanent ban on wild animal markets. 4\. Why don’t bats get sick from the virus?Bats are pretty incredible animals. They are the only mammals that fly. Scientists have linked the genetic modifications associated with flight with beneficial modifications to the bat’s immune system. For example, the bat’s immune system fights viral infections but does not overreact to them, preventing bats from falling ill from the many viruses they have. 5\. How do organisms reach a ‘truce’ with a virus?The outcome of a virus infecting an animal depends on two general factors: The first is how strong, or virulent, is the strain of the virus. The second is the effectiveness of the infected animal’s immune defenses. Initially, a virus might be highly lethal to animals. Rapidly killing its host is not beneficial to the virus because it limits the virus’s capacity to spread to other animals. Therefore, the virus become less virulent with time. On the other hand, animals sensitive to the virus die quickly, while animals with inherited resistance to the virus survive, passing that resistance to their offspring. This combination of events, over a large period of time, results in an equilibrium where the animal’s immune system is able to control a virus infection without completely eradicating it. In people, this type of equilibrium could be observed with herpes infections. [Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.Read more: * What really works to keep coronavirus away? 4 questions answered by a public health professional * Why public health officials sound more worried about the coronavirus than the seasonal fluMarcos E. García-Ojeda does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi is moving swiftly toward House passage of a coronavirus aid package possibly this week as Congress rebuffs President Trump's proposed payroll tax break and focuses instead on sick pay and other resources to more immediately help workers hit by the crisis.


  • Fox News' Martha McCallum grew impatient with a top health official who dodged her questions on coronavirus patients and praised Trump instead.


  • The U.S. government's response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has been "much, much worse than almost any other country that's been affected," Ashish Jha, who runs the Harvard Global Health Institute, told NPR on Thursday. "I still don't understand why we don't have extensive testing. Vietnam! Vietnam has tested more people than America has." Without testing, he added, "you have no idea how extensive the infection is," and "we have to shut schools, events, and everything down, because that's the only tool available to us until we get testing back up. It's been stunning to me how bad the federal response has been."There are a lot of reasons why the U.S. lags other countries in testing for the new coronavirus -- defective early tests by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the decision not to adopt an effective German test adopted by the World Health Organization -- but Politico's Dan Diamond told Fresh Air's Terry Gross on Thursday that politics also seems to have played a role, along with mismanagement and infighting between, for example, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Seema Verma, the Medicare chief.In January, Azar "did push past resistance from the president's political aides to warn the president the new coronavirus could be a major problem," Diamond said, but he "has not always given the president the worst-case scenario of what could happen. My understanding is [Trump] did not push to do aggressive additional testing in recent weeks, and that's partly because more testing might have led to more cases being discovered of coronavirus outbreak, and the president had made clear -- the lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president, the better for his potential re-election this fall."CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta discussed America's "sad" testing failure, the "provincial" decision not to use the WHO test, and other missteps and positive moves with Stephen Colbert on Thursday's Late Show. You can watch that below. More stories from theweek.com Why Trump fears Biden The entire country of Norway is 'shutting down' Fox & Friends' Ainsley Earhardt claims now is 'the safest time to fly' despite coronavirus pandemic


  • A top US health official says Americans should prepare for nearly two months or more of shutdowns and working from home as the deadly coronavirus spreads throughout the country.“It’s certainly going to get worse before it gets better,” Dr Anthony Fauci, an official with the National Institutes of Health, said during an interview on Good Morning America.


  • "You know it's been called a tragedy — that doesn't seem to be enough," said the judge who handed down 23-year-old Colten Treu's sentence.


  • Iran said Friday the security forces will clear the streets nationwide within 24 hours so all citizens can be checked for coronavirus -- its toughest measure yet to combat the outbreak. The COVID-19 epidemic in Iran -- a nation of more than 80 million people -- has now claimed over 500 lives and infected more than 11,000. Since it announced the first deaths last month, Iran has shut schools, postponed events and discouraged travel ahead of Nowrouz, the country's New Year holidays.


  • Mexico could consider measures at its northern border to slow coronavirus' spread into its relatively unaffected territory, health officials said on Friday, with an eye to containing a U.S. outbreak that has infected more than 1,800 people. Mexico has so far confirmed 16 cases of coronavirus with no deaths, a fraction of more than 1,800 cases in the United States, where 41 people have died. Mexico's deputy health minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said contagion from the United States was a threat.


  • When the head of the World Health Organization said this week that the new coronavirus' death rate was an estimated 3.4%, the figure seemed to shock both experts and President Donald Trump."I think the 3.4% number is really a false number," Trump said in a Fox News interview. "Now, this is just my hunch, but based on a lot of conversations," he added, "I'd say the number is way under 1%."By definition, the case fatality rate is the number of deaths divided by the total number of confirmed cases, which appears to be what the WHO did to arrive at its rate.Is 3.4% a misleading number? We spoke to a number of experts in epidemiology, and they all agreed that 1% was probably more realistic (the WHO has also said the number would probably fall). But they also said evidence about the spread and severity of the disease was still too new and spotty to know for sure.The fatality rate is a key figure that public health officials use to respond to disease outbreaks. The more deadly a disease, the more aggressive they're willing to be in disrupting normal life. But current data allows scientists to measure only a crude statistic called the case fatality rate, which is based on reported cases of an illness."It's essential for understanding how big our response should be," said Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard. "All responses have costs. If we think the risk is higher, then we should be willing to tolerate bigger costs, more inconvenience and the mental health loss from social distancing."There are several reasons we still don't know the right number. Insufficient testing, for example, may be making the fatality rate look larger than it actually is -- but deaths where a coronavirus infection was never diagnosed could make it look smaller. These are the key biases that epidemiologists and public health officials think about when looking at the case fatality estimates so far, and how they might change in coming weeks and months.-- Not enough people have been testedThe fewer people you test for a disease, the fewer infections you are going to measure. In the United States, until last week, the only people being tested for the disease were those who had traveled to China or were known to have had contact with other ill people. Those strict standards were driven in part by a shortage of reliable tests. But we now know that there were many infected people in the country who weren't being counted.Think about that problem on a much larger scale. If there were a magical way to test everyone in the world for the disease, we would know exactly how many people have the infection. Discovering every case would tend to drive down the fatality rate, since the number of deaths would be divided over a much larger number of living infected people. There is increasing evidence that some people infected with coronavirus have few or no symptoms. Those people are the least likely to seek or receive tests.-- Limited testing in many countries means that the reported death rates probably skew high."Since most cases are mild, and testing has not been universal, almost by definition we are failing to detect and therefore count all of the cases," said Mark Lurie, an associate professor of epidemiology at Brown University.Over the long term, epidemiologists often do a kind of blood testing of large numbers of people in a given community. By testing their immune systems, they can measure how many people have been exposed to a disease. That type of research is often the gold standard for getting a real infection rate and a better fatality rate, called the infection fatality rate. The infection fatality rate for the flu, for example, is about one tenth to two tenths of 1% -- far lower than any of the estimates for the coronavirus. But that measurement technique is most useful after a disease has already spread widely, so it can't be easily used now.-- The number of deaths could be wrongCompared with infections, deaths are relatively easy to count, especially now that we know that this disease exists and what its symptoms look like. But public health experts say we still may not have a complete count of all coronavirus deaths. In some countries, frail people have died of pneumonia and weren't tested, including an elderly Spanish patient who was tested for the coronavirus only after his death. If sick people are dying without going to a hospital, they could be missed.But the biggest challenge for measuring deaths right now is that people can be infected with coronavirus for a long time before becoming sick enough to be at risk of death. Currently, we are counting everyone who tests positive for the virus as infected and alive. But, in the future, some of those people will die of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins, was part of a team of scientists who studied a group of COVID-19 cases in Shenzhen, China. He found that most people who died had been sick for longer than 30 days. "Think of when all the cases outside of Hubei have occurred," he said of the province whose capital is Wuhan. "If it's 30 days or even two weeks, we're really at the tip of the iceberg."Generally, epidemiologists like to measure the fatality rate for a disease over a set period. They look at everyone who gets sick and see how many are still alive over weeks, months or years, depending on the disease. So far, scientists have been unable to do those kinds of studies for the novel coronavirus.Conditions in countries varyRight now, the global estimates are combining deaths and cases from countries around the world with very different populations and different health systems. But experts say differences between populations in each country and in the nations' health systems may make death rates higher in some places than in others.The risk factors for death or severe illness from coronavirus are still being studied, but there is strong evidence that older people are at a higher risk of dying. There are very few documented cases of children who have developed serious illness. A disproportionate number of deaths have been among patients older than 65. The share of people over 65 in China is 11%, and in Italy it's 23%.In the United States, it's 16%. Countries like Italy, with more older people, may end up with a higher rate of death.Smoking may also play a role, evidence suggests, and the smoking rates in different countries vary considerably. Smoking among men in China is common. In the United States, smoking rates are substantially lower. Other health problems, like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and lung ailments like asthma, may also predispose people to a greater chance of severe illness, though the effects are still being studied.The sophistication and capacity of the health care system most likely matters a lot, too. Patients with severe COVID-19 often need complex care for pneumonia and respiratory failure, sometimes including mechanical ventilation. The quality of that care will probably depend on the availability of ventilators and trained staff to monitor them."When facilities got overwhelmed, there were more deaths," said Dr. Thomas Frieden of the experience in China. Frieden, who was the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Obama administration, said that when he was in government, he worked to expand the country's strategic reserve of ventilator machines. Whether there will ultimately be enough hospital capacity for everyone with serious illness in the United States depends on how quickly and broadly the virus spreads.Researchers are racing to develop treatments for the disease, as well as a vaccine. Once there are better ways to help people who are infected, the fatality rate may go down for everyone.Eventually, scientists should be able to offer still more granular estimates of risk. This would allow people of different ages and health histories, in different countries, to estimate their risk of serious illness or death."When I looked at the 3.4% number and where they got it, I thought this is both wrong and irrelevant," said Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. "It's not relevant to nearly any single person. This is a worldwide average."As Jha noted, most people want to know their personal risk, not the risk for the average person worldwide. Developing estimates with that level of nuance will take even longer than building a more reliable infection fatality rate.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company


  • (Bloomberg) -- In Rome, the first signs of change came from overhead. Shortly before cocktail hour on Monday, the thrum-thrum-thrum of a helicopter could be heard above the winding lanes of the 2,000-year-old historic center. The police were keeping an eye on the Trastevere neighborhood, where smoke billowed from the windows of a jail as inmates rioted, protesting cramped conditions that put them at risk of coronavirus infection.About the same time, the stock market was opening in New York, ushering in a week that would become the worst rout in more than three decades. A few hours later, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte gathered journalists for a televised, prime-time press conference. Rules that only 48 hours earlier had been imposed on Milan, Venice and other cities in the north—travel was restricted, schools were shut, and even the opera was called off—would be extended nationwide. The world’s eighth biggest economy, with more than 60 million inhabitants, entered virtual quarantine. It was like flicking a switch. In just days, a Western democracy went from Aperol Spritz to lockdown, as the outbreak spread from a northern crisis to a national one, now with more than 15,000 known infections and more than 1,000 deaths, second only to China.Read More: Coronavirus Can Live in Patients for Five Weeks After ContagionFor those lucky enough not to be living through the Italian lockdown, pay attention: What’s happening in Milan, Florence and Rome offers a likely preview of what’s coming to New York, London or Paris in a week or two. Consider this our letter to you from Italy, written from the seclusion of our couches and dining room tables, with a taste of what you should expect. Whether it’s shuttered shops, civil unrest, or the coronavirus itself, it will be difficult to avoid the trauma Italy has experienced in the past three weeks. President Donald Trump blamed the outbreak on a “foreign” virus Wednesday when he announced restrictions on European travel to the U.S. But it’s already there, in Seattle, New Rochelle and places yet undetected. The prime minister took to Twitter with the hashtag iorestoacasa: “I stay at home.” While hunkering down in your kitchen or bedroom makes epidemiological sense, it’s terrible for bars, boutiques and pizzerias. On Tuesday evening, as the streetlights flickered on, a flour-dusted pizzaiolo exited a restaurant near Piazza Navona while his boss taped signs on the window declaring the place shuttered. “‘Stay at home,’ they said!” the pizza maker railed. “Well, now we’re going to stay at home. We’re closed.” Similar scenes are playing out from Italy’s boot-top to toe. Northern hospitals are approaching the limits of their ability to care for those whose lungs are being ravaged by the disease. The Rialto Bridge in Venice, normally teeming with selfie-stick-wielding tourists, is empty. Dolomiti Superski, Europe’s biggest ski resort, has shut its lifts for the season despite pistes buried under more than five feet of snow. In Naples, trucks that look like something out of “Blade Runner” trundle through the Piazza del Plebiscito dousing the cobblestones in disinfectant.The unfolding financial crisis is deeply entwined with what’s happening in shoe stores, gelato shops, and hospital wards. Unlike the last financial contagion, which largely came from within the banking system, this is a shock to the entire economic corpus. As business grinds to a halt, the country risks a domino effect of unpaid bills and loans that threaten to ripple across the globe.“Basically, it’s a natural-disaster case,” Philipp Hildebrand, vice chairman at money manager BlackRock Inc., told Bloomberg TV. “If they don’t have customers for a couple of weeks, it becomes very hard to service their debt, it becomes hard to pay the rent.”Italy on Wednesday announced  measures worth as much as 25 billion euros ($28 billion) to cushion the blow of the pandemic. Those include help for companies whose turnover has plunged, a moratorium on some mortgage payments, and support for workers facing temporary layoffs and parents who must stay home to take care of kids when schools are closed.On Thursday, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde unveiled her own stimulus package, but held off on cutting interest rates. When Lagarde said, “We are not here to close spreads,” the Italian bond market plunged and yields shot up by the most ever. By the end of the day, U.S. stocks had registered their worst sell-off since 1987's Black Monday.Hildebrand’s comparison to a natural disaster is apt. This isn’t like a sovereign-debt crisis, a credit crunch, or even the invasion of Iraq. The only thing that comes close is the apprehension before a hurricane. As anyone who’s spent much time in Florida can attest, you know it’s coming, but you don’t know exactly when or where it will hit or how bad it will be. So you lay in supplies and make sure your Netflix subscription is paid up, and when it hits you don’t go outside because you might get killed by flying debris. That’s what Italy feels like. In a televised address Wednesday evening, Conte tightened things even further, ordering virtually all retailers other than grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations to close until March 25. Factories can operate and public transportation, banks and the postal service will continue, but restaurants, cafes and bars are shut. With each passing day, Italy has become increasingly isolated from the outside world. Neighbors have clamped down at border crossings that for the past two decades have allowed unfettered passage under European Union rules. Austria and Slovenia are restricting entry to those who have tested negative for the virus, and Switzerland has sealed off nine minor crossings. On Thursday, Italians awoke to the news of Trump’s ban on most travel from Europe.No matter what form the landfall takes—from financial to epidemiological—the Italian experience has made one thing clear: When those shocks happen, it will seem like they arrived overnight.As recently as last Friday, the tourists had largely cleared out of Rome, but for locals life went on, with gusto. Restaurants were so packed that waiters could barely squeeze past the diners. Shoppers jostled for warm pizza bianca in bakeries. A butcher on Campo de’Fiori was so crowded customers needed to take a number. Then in the wee hours from Saturday to Sunday Conte announced the northern restrictions, and on Monday Italy became the first democratic country since World War II to impose a nationwide lockdown. Two weeks ago it had seemed like a big deal when cases topped 1,000. Now that number seems quaint.The outbreak that started in China in January has infected more than 130,000 people in at least 114 countries and territories, shuttering cities, disrupting trade and supply chains, and shaking financial markets. With Europe facing the prospect of a recession, Italy is at the center of it all. The country’s public debt stands at about 2.4 trillion euros, almost 135% of gross domestic product.Banks in other EU countries hold almost 450 billion euros in Italian sovereign debt. If the country goes under and those Italian holdings collapse in value, it would shake the foundations of the EU banking system. European banks are worried the crisis could even turn into a global meltdown like 2008. Their concern is that a virus-induced shutdown could spark a wave of defaults among the small and medium-sized enterprises that make up the economic backbone of countries such as Italy and Germany. That would wipe out profits at the lenders and potentially eat up much of the capital that regulators require them to set aside for a rainy day.The beleaguered Italian economy was already vulnerable to the economic impact of the virus, “a bit like an immuno-compromised patient,” says Rosamaria Bitetti, an economist at LUISS university in Rome. And like that patient, a sneezing, sniffling Italy puts the rest of the world at risk. “The impact could be systemic for all of Europe and beyond,” Bitetti says.It’s a peril that starts with people like Rossella Rocco. After eight years studying and working in Rome, in December the 29-year-old hairdresser moved back home to Corigliano-Rossano, a town of 77,000 in the southern region of Calabria. With state funding offered to young entrepreneurs launching businesses in the south, she leased a shop on the central piazza that she outfitted with a pair of hair-washing sinks and three salon chairs. But now, just a month before her planned opening, the pandemic has hit, with the town getting its first cases in the past few days. Even if customers show up, under the latest decree she’ll be barred from letting them in. She compares the experience to awaiting a tidal wave. “We’re bracing for impact: If people don’t leave the house there’s no business,” Rocco says. “I’m trying to stay positive, but this is devastating. Businesses like mine can’t survive without people.”Italy offers key lessons for the rest of the world: Impose harsh rules, fast, and make sure your message is clear. For weeks, Conte resisted demands from his government and opposition leaders for strict containment measures. Then he abruptly made his dramatic leap from locking down the north to shutting the entire country. And media leaks of the first decision, to seal off the north, sparked confusion—even panic—prompting thousands to rush onto trains to escape, and leading southern regions to order quarantines for arrivals from the worst-hit areas. Some economists say Italy’s early outbreak could prove that taking a short-term hit to business is worth the cost to stem the human and financial carnage. “Italy is a precursor of what will happen in the U.S. and in Europe because of the speed at which the virus spread,” says Nathalie Tocci, director of the International Affairs Institute in Rome. “Germany is on the same trend as Italy, but two weeks behind.”In another preview of what the U.S. might face, the extensive powers wielded by Italian regions—including health policy—led to delays in responding to the outbreak and arguments over limits on travel. Most Europeans bristle at restrictions on the scale of those imposed in China. “Italy’s weakness is the price to pay for an open society in a liberal democracy,” says Giovanni Orsina, head of the school of government at LUISS.Beyond the financial risks, there are those that can be truly terrifying to anyone anywhere: violence and disease. The turmoil in Trastevere wasn’t unique. Prisoners in at least two dozen facilities across the country rioted, leaving 12 inmates dead, apparently from drug overdoses after raiding the jail pharmacies.Yet so far, Italian officials insist there’s little risk of civil unrest or of the government falling because of the emergency. Of course, any prediction is hard to make given that infections haven’t yet peaked. Just a week ago, skiers were still booking Italian vacations and American university students were jetting around Europe. The nightmare scenario is health facilities collapsing in northern Italy, where hospitals are expecting shortages of intensive-care beds, ventilation machines and respirators. A rapid spread of the virus through the poorer south could expose the weak link in the national health system: A health ministry study says care in some southern regions is sub-standard.This is where a now-famous graph called “flattening the curve” comes in. The chart circulating on social media, which illustrates the thinking behind Italy’s extraordinary measures, shows two scenarios for any country, region or city. In one, cases spike all at once. In the second—represented by a flatter curve on a graph—the same number of infections spreads out over time due to “social distancing” such as school closures. A horizontal line represents the number of cases the local healthcare system can handle at any given time. The flatter curve stays below the line, but the spike scenario goes above it—meaning there aren’t enough beds or respirators for patients who need them. That’s what Italy is trying to avoid.For now, the hotspots in the north appear to be holding just below the line, in part by bringing in new equipment and, in recent days, moving intensive-care patients with non-corona ailments to hospitals farther away. But Italians are bracing for difficult decisions: On March 6, the national society of anesthesiology and intensive care published recommendations for dealing with “exceptional conditions of imbalance between needs and available resources” in admissions. The considerations for potential triage include a patient’s age and chance of survival. It’s no wonder that some Italians, especially older ones, are gripped with fear. On a recent morning at a Rome supermarket, a woman who appeared to be in her 70s blew up—more in terror than anger—at a man of a similar age standing close behind her, in violation of a new rule requiring at least a meter between people in public spaces. Taxi drivers wearing both masks and scarves around their faces are balancing the risk of infection with making their car payments.That fear has led to a sudden boom in grocery delivery services. The day after Conte announced the national lockdown, Rome supermarket entrances were jammed with bicycle couriers, mostly immigrants from Africa and South America, jostling for orders. By then Milan had settled into a home-delivery routine that has left residents waiting more than a week for a slot to get groceries.For Italians, it’s just another sign that the entrenched rhythms of daily life had to give way—from cappuccino at the bar in the morning, to an aperitivo in the piazza after work, to a pizza out with friends at night. The sacrifice isn’t fun, and borders on tragic: Weddings and funerals are banned, birthday parties postponed, educations derailed, businesses pushed to failure. But our friendly advice is when this virus gets to you, the sooner you accept the need to go into lockdown, the better.(Adds details on US market fall in 11th paragraph and updated infection numbers in 18th paragraph. An earlier version corrected the characterization of the Italian bond market move.)\--With assistance from Nicholas Comfort, Daniele Lepido, Sonia Sirletti, Giovanni Salzano and Antonio Vanuzzo.To contact the authors of this story: Vernon Silver in Rome at vtsilver@bloomberg.netAlessandra Migliaccio in Rome at amigliaccio@bloomberg.netJohn Follain in Rome at jfollain2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: David Rocks at drocks1@bloomberg.net, Melinda GrenierFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the bottom line for the coronavirus outbreak in the US is that "it's going to get worse."


  • MGM Resorts International informed guests and employees that a confirmed COVID-19 patient attended a conference at the Mirage.


  • The sister of an executed inmate, whose case drew national scrutiny because he was not the gunman, confronted Alabama's governor on Thursday for not stopping the lethal injection. The sister of Nathaniel Woods approached Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey as she spoke with reporters about the U.S. Census, WSFA reported. Woods was put to death March 5 by lethal injection after the U.S. Supreme Court and the governor both declined to intervene.


  • Democrats will likely to be able to pass the bill in the House, but the Republican opposition is a blow to hopes for bipartisanship.


  • “Right now, we've seen particularly troubling instances of discrimination directed at Asian communities, particularly in Chinese community,” de Blasio said.


  • India on Thursday reported its first coronavirus death as authorities ordered schools, theatres and cinemas closed in New Delhi for the rest of the month in a bid to keep the pandemic at bay. India with its 1.3 billion population and proximity to China has so far come through the global virus crisis, that has killed more than 4,600 people, relatively unscathed. The death was announced, however, only hours after India suspended all visas for incoming tourists from Friday and ordered the closure of most border points with neighbouring Bangladesh and Myanmar.


  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday announced a halt on domestic land, sea and air travel to and from Manila, as well as community quarantine measures, in what he called a "lockdown" of the capital to arrest the spread of coronavirus. Duterte approved a resolution to allow a raft of containment measures including bans on mass gatherings, a month of school closures and quarantining in communities where cases are detected, as well as stopping domestic travel in and out of Manila.


  • The detention of Jang group's editor-in-chief by an anti-corruption agency prompts deep concern.


  • Donald Trump has drawn fire for his reference to the coronavirus as a "foreign virus" and for focusing on a ban on European travel despite repeated warnings from health officials that the Covid-19 outbreak's inevitable surge throughout the US is coming through community spread that's already in the country.In his address to the nation on Wednesday, the president asserted that "the virus will not have a chance against us" as he blamed Europe for failing to contain the outbreak and said the administration's ban on China travel was effective in limiting its spread.


  • South Korea has reported lower coronavirus death rates than other countries. But even those rates indicate COVID-19 is far more deadly than the flu.


  • U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota has married a political consultant who worked for her, months after the two were accused of having an affair, which she denied. A marriage license filed in Washington, D.C., shows Omar married political consultant Tim Mynett on Wednesday. Omar announced her new marriage Wednesday night on Instagram, with a photo of her and a bearded man smiling and displaying wedding rings.


  • Kremlin critics denounced the move for Vladimir Putin to stay in office until 2036 as cynical manipulation and called for protests on March 21.


  • A Republican lawmaker has blocked an attempt by Senate Democrats to pass legislation that would require employers to provide paid sick leave, in light of the coronavirus.


  • In a gleaming compound built from scratch on an Albanian hillside, thousands of Iranians dedicate their waking hours to toppling the regime in Tehran 3,000 kilometres away. "I think this year will be very decisive," says Zohreh Akhiani, the 56-year-old mayor of "Ashraf 3", a mini-city of some 2,800 exiled Iranians from the opposition movement the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). The dissidents hope an onslaught of crises in their homeland will aid their cause, from increasingly harsh US sanctions to recent anti-government protests and the new coronavirus, which has infected top officials.


  • A soundbar is virtually always going to be better than your TV's built-in speakers. Here's how to find the best soundbar for your setup.


  • Thai officials played down the possibility of "super spreading" of the coronavirus on Thursday as they reported a group of friends were responsible for the biggest daily rise in the country's cases since the outbreak began. The new patients are a group of friends who appeared to pass the virus to each other after one of their number was first infected by a tourist who has since returned to Hong Kong, officials said. The male and female friends, all Thai nationals aged in their 20s and 30s, socialized and shared drinks and cigarettes on two occasions in late February.


  • India—a country of more than 1.3 billion people—only has 74 reported COVID-19 cases. Experts say there may be many more.


  • President Donald Trump had a rough night Wednesday.Not only was he forced to address the growing seriousness of the coronavirus - which he’s been downplaying for weeks - but mics and cameras caught him in candid moments before and after his speech.


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