Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Fears of Coronavirus Covid-19: Contagion, Panic, Economics, and President Trump's Reelection

The Fears of Covid-19, the Coronavirus: Contagion, Panic, Economic, Political, and President Trump’s Reelection So much of the Covid-19 risk is still unknown, especially the lethality rate. China is reporting a rate of 3.4%, but the rate is lower outside Wuhan. Iran has a high rate of 5.54% based on 54 deaths out of 978 reported cases . Yet, only 44 fatalities have occurred elsewhere with a death rate of 1.5%. For example, Singapore has 0 fatalities out of 106 cases. 69 made a full recovery and been released from hospitals. China and Iran both have transparency problems. China’s numbers are skewed. The country now reports 87,733 cases with 2,996 deaths. They have changed the method of diagnosing the disease. Their numbers also don’t account for earlier mild cases or all current cases. The Covid-19 virus will go global. It will be labeled a pandemic. It’s impossible to prevent the spread because of its characteristics. The blame lies with China. The party hacks in the city of Wuhan and Hebei Province let it get out of control before taking action. They even muzzled and forced an apology from Dr. Li Wenliang, who first noticed the disease. He has since become a martyr in China, dying from the disease, as have several other health care providers including Dr. Liu Zhiming, director at one of the Wuhan hospitals at the center of the epidemic. China publicly announced the public health problem on December 31, 2019. Here’s what we know about Covid-19. It’s highly contagious, but not nearly as fatal as SARS, MERS, or Ebola. It kills though pneumonia. Most victims get mild cases, which often resemble its cousin, the common cold. Those most at risk are the elderly and those with preexisting conditions. Some people seem to be asymptomatic. 81% of the diagnosed cases in China are mild. The reality is that we do not know with current technology how many victims have caught the disease or are asymptomatic carriers. Singapore announced that it has been able to track the virus through antibodies. The test is accurate for those tested. The virus is dangerous because civilization has developed neither immunity nor vaccines for it. Italy provides a sad example. Diagnosis was delayed in a man who had nether been to China nor been in contact with a known case of the disease. He had transmitted the virus to his pregnant wife and six members of an amateur soccer team before being diagnosed. He was a symptomatic for weeks. He set off an epidemic in Lombardy. Italy as of February 29, 2020 has 1,128 cases with 29 deaths. The virus came to Italy with two Chinese tourists testing positive in Rome on January 31. An Italian repatriated from Wuhan tested positive on February 6. Epidemics, such as in Hubei Province, can exceed the available medical resources. That could also be a problem in the United States. Hubei is the hub of producing of producing masks, bandages, and surgical drapes and gowns. Our medical facilities are currently coping with the flu. The initial screening is for a fever. I was in Singapore February 5-10, connecting through Seoul. The airports and conference center were using thermal scans from a distance. I got stickers that said “I’m cool.” No fever – you’re clear to go. No visible signs, you’re good to fly. The virus has hit 60 countries by today. Iran’s Vice President is in quarantine, having contracted the disease. The only way currently to contain the virus is isolation and quarantine, tracking those exposed. We know that the virus is spreading globally, but the dangers can be minimized. Mask manufacturers are working overtime to supply the demand. However, most of the masks are considered ineffective in fighting the disease, but should be used by those with symptoms. A N95 mask is believed effective if properly used. Knowing that, I still used masks on the airplanes, airports, and subway in Singapore. The masks provide psychological comfort. Panic The public has reacted with panic, similar to the early years of AIDS. However, we know so far that Covid-19 is not the second or third coming of the Plague, or the second coming of the Spanish Flu. Anti-Chinese animus is rising globally. Newport Coast Elementary School in Orange County is rumored to be expecting seven students from China. Dozens of parents are apoplectic, demanding answers and threatening to pull their children out of the school. It has echoes of Ryan White, a 13 year old who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion. Despite of medical evidence showing he was not a threat to others, many parents and teachers fought his readmission to school. 117 parents and 50 teachers signed a petition seeking to ban him from school. The state ordered him reinstated. He was unwelcome on his return, and subsequently transferred to another community, where he was affirmatively greeted by the superintendent of schools, the principal, and several student who shook his hand. An Asian-American student in the San Fernando Valley coughed. He was attacked by other boys, accusing him of exposing them to the virus. Mindless fear is taking over. People are hoarding products, such as toilet paper, water, rice and ramen, disinfectants, clearing out retailers. Streets are empty in Wuhan and Beijing, but also in Milan and Chinatowns in cities like San Francisco. The Mayor of san Francisco has declared a state of emergency in the city even though no cases have yet appeared in San Francisco. The Louvre is closed. Saudi Arabia has halted pilgrimage to the Holy sites in Mecca and Medina. The schools are closed for a month in Japan. The Olympics may be imperiled. Baseball teams are playing in empty stadiums. It’s serious. Impacts and Economics We are not only in a global economy, but have also exported much of our factories to China. China’s factories went on extended vacations on Chinese New Year. Many have not reopened, while others have trouble ramping up to full production with workers staying home. Apple announced that it will take a financial hit between lost production and closing many of its China stores. Other U.S. companies, including MacDonald’s and Starbucks, have also closed stores in China. Manufacturers are paying the price for their lean and mean, just in time inventory processes designed to minimize inventory costs. Many of the essential parts and chemicals come from China. The supply train has been shattered. Business continuity plans may not work in this situation. The United States is also dependent on China for other products. For example, 80% of America’s antibiotics come from China. The country also supplies 80% of America’s toy market, and a large percent of the nation’s apparel. China’s auto industry is, or was, the largest in the world. 25.8 million vehicles were sold in China in 2019, more than Japan and the United States combined, and more than the EU countries. GM sells more cars in China than in the United States. China is VW’s largest market. Buick and Audi are popular luxury cars in China. Mercedes sells about 700,000 cars annually in China – twice the number in the United States. China’s auto market is closed for business in much of China today. Sales plunged 18% in January. No one’s buying much of anything in China today. The hospitality and tourist industries are in a deep depression in Southeast Asia. Flights have been cancelled. On February 10 the airports in Singapore and Seoul were empty, the luxury stores bereft of customers, the planes full of empty seats and cargo hulls, and hotels slashing rates. The bellies of the planes were no longer carrying cargo. The great airlines of Asia are in economic distress. 250,000 flights have been canceled into, out of, and within China. Airports like Hong Kong, Seoul, and Singapore are empty. One example is Singapore Airlines, which has cut 670 flights in March. Even the Mideast airlines, such as Emirates, have cut flights because of their large business in Asia. One estimate is that the travel industry will incur $100 billion in losses. Singapore estimated a few weeks ago a 25-30% drop in visitor arrivals. That estimate a few weeks ago appears optimistic. The Chinese became the world’s tourists. 3 million Chinese visited America last year, spending an average of $6,500 each. That’s just the United States. They are the big spenders throughout Asia, such as on Singapore’s Orchard Road. Hong Kong’s economy was already in distress because of months of riots. The potential economic impact of the Coronavirus will except business continuity plans. Two pieces of “good news” arise out of the public health and economic disaster in China. First the air quality has substantially improved in China. Second, oil prices are dropping because of a substantial drop in demand from China and in aviation fuel by the airlines. Saudi Arabia has cut production for China by 50,000 barrels daily. Politics President Trump seems headed to reelection 245 days before election day, regardless of who the Democrats nominate. Only an economic collapse can imperil his reelection. An untimely recession can challenge the reelection of President Trump. The Democrats and media will do everything to pin the virus and its impacts on the President. Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer issued a joint statement on Thursday: “Lives are at stake – This is not the time for name-calling and playing politics.” They had an opposite approach two days earlier. The Senator used the words “towering and dangerous incompetence” to describe the President. Speaker Pelosi said “The American people need a well-coordinated , whole-of-government, fully-funded response to keep them safe from the coronavirus threat. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has mounted an opaque and chaotic response to this outbreak.” The Democrats and media damned President George W. Bush by pinning the Katrina debacle on him even though fault lay with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. President Bush refused to answer the charges, staying above the fray. His father lost reelection to Governor Bill Clinton, who pinned a mild recession on the President, who failed to counter the charges. President Trump will vociferously defend himself. The Democrats and media are already slamming the President on the Covid-19. They will crucify the President when the virus inevitably spreads and results in a number of fatalities. Mistakes will be made in responding to the virus, as with the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan. Lessons will be learned from the mistakes. The Democrats and media will excoriate the President. That’s all they know how to do after three years, three years of crying wolf. The Democratic candidates have not listened to their “leaders.” Senator Warren Called the Administration’s response a “mess.” Senator Sanders, who honey mooned in the Soviet Union, loves Fidel Castro and Cuba, and wants to nationalize healthcare, said “We need a President who does not play politics with out health and national security.” Tom Steyer, who just dropped out, said the President’s management “risks a Katrina-level disaster for our country.” Michael Bloomberg in an ad said “The president fired the pandemic specialist in this country two years ago. There’s nobody here to figure out what the hell we should be doing.” Mayor Bloomberg is on tape saying "We have to deny the elderly care" or go bankrupt. He added: "Go and enjoy. Have a nice one. You've lived a long life." Mayor Buttigeig said the response would be ”based on science’ and “not politics.” President Trump’s restrictions on entry into the United States postponed the inevitable viral entry into the United States, buying time for America to prepare. Vice President Joe Biden, who misspoke about being arrested in trying to visit Nelson Mandela in prison, called President Trump’s remarks “absolutely bizarre.” The United States is prepared, as prepared as any nation, but it is not prepared for a widespread epidemic. It is lacking in respirators and quarantine facilities, especially being constrained by the current flu. By way of comparison 68 homicides and Chicago and 52 in Baltimore have occurred so far this year, inly 1/6 into 2020. By way of comparison, 32 million flu illnesses, 310,000 hospitalizations, and 18,000 deaths, including 125 children, have been diagnosed so far this flu season. The Democrats and media would pin that on President Trump if they could.

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