The medical examiner in Santa Clara, California, confirmed Tuesday that two COVID-19 deaths happened there in early February, becoming the country’s first known coronavirus fatalities—and possibly providing clues about how early the virus was spreading in the U.S.
The Los Angeles Times reported that two people in Santa Clara County infected with coronavirus died on February 6 and February 17; an additional COVID-19 death was confirmed March 6.
Tissue samples were used to determine the Santa Clara County deaths were from coronavirus, and were confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control, the New York Times reported.
Prior to Tuesday, the first report of a U.S. COVID-19 fatality was on February 29 in Kirkland, Washington, and officials later determined two people who died in the area February 26 also had the virus.
The two California residents who died in February did not have travel histories that would have exposed them to COVID-19, according to the New York Times.
The newly confirmed deaths suggest COVID-19 was spreading earlier than was previously believed—likely “back in December,” Santa Clara County executive and medical doctor Jeffrey V. Smith told the Los Angeles Times.
“This wasn’t recognized because we were having a severe flu season,” Smith said, adding, “Symptoms are very much like the flu. If you got a mild case of COVID, you didn’t really notice. You didn’t even go to the doctor.”
“These three individuals died at home during a time when very limited testing was available only through the [CDC]. Testing criteria set by the CDC at the time restricted testing to only individuals with a known travel history and who sought medical care for specific symptoms,” said the Santa Clara County medical examiner in a statement. “As the Medical Examiner-Coroner continues to carefully investigate deaths throughout the county, we anticipate additional deaths from COVID-19 will be identified.”
Gene sequencing conducted in Washington State showed that the coronavirus might have been spreading there for weeks, with January 20 being the date for the state’s first confirmed case, according to a March 1, 2020, New York Times report. U.S. officials determined cases in travelers from abroad that same month, but did not confirm community spread of COVID-19 for weeks. Other possible indications that the virus was spreading earlier than was believed include the Grand Princess cruise ship that set sail from San Francisco, California on February 11, with passengers that later displayed symptoms. Researchers also believe that the virus was spreading in New York by the middle of February.
I’m a New York-based journalist covering breaking news at Forbes. I hold a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Previous bylines: Gotham Gazette, Bklyner, Thrillist, Task & Purpose and xoJane.
With utmost caution, slowly, carefully and nervously watched, the process of relieving lockdown restrictions has started country by country in Europe, each at its own pace and according to its own approach as the continent marks a turning point in its coronavirus crisis.
As countries across the continent report further declines in new Covid-19 cases, governments are lifting some prohibitions, partially opening schools and permitting the reopening of some shops and public areas.
Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Czech Republic and Iceland, where new infections have mostly plateaued, are among the first wave of countries easing their most severe restrictions, allowing partial returns to work and announcing other measures to help resuscitate their economies.
The official announcements have been extremely cautious and in a number of cases severely criticized, especially relating to plans for reopening schools because, as Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said: “If we open too quickly, we risk that infections rise too sharply and then we have to close down again.”
That warning also came from Ursula Von Der Leyen, the European Commission head who explained that life cannot return to full normality before a vaccine has been developed.
As for traveling, the European Commission has been very clear: “I’d advise everyone to wait before making holiday plans,” Von der Leyen told the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag. “At the moment, no one can make reliable forecasts for July and August.”
The need for caution and the step-by-step reopening plans are what the various countries have in common. While there’s consensus that societies should reopen segment-by-segment, governments cannot agree about which age groups or industries should be sent back first, which ones afterwards and when.
As countries unveil their “phase two” plans, it’s not the similarities in their approaches that prevail but their differences. “As Italy opens bookshops, stationers and children’s clothes shops, Spanish shops can expect to remain shut until April 26,” reports online news site The Wire. “While Spain’s factory staff returned to work on Monday, Italy’s factories (barring pharmaceutical and food-processing plants) are still closed. It is mandatory to wear masks outside the home in the Czech Republic, but not in Denmark.”
“A similar gulf in strategy has emerged between Austria and the Scandinavian countries,” The Wire continued. “Vienna is prioritizing the opening of non-essential stores while hinting schools could stay closed until September. Countries such as Norway and Denmark, however, are sending students – especially younger pupils – back to school this month.”
The same can be said about the travel industry and the new directives necessary in order to emerge from the crisis. All the countries are carefully considering what to do and when as borders for the most part remain closed. But each is taking its own decisions, at the time of its choosing and, for now, confusion is widespread.
With so many people around the world having booked summer holidays before the crisis, and a tourism industry reeling globally and massively, one message seems to be getting clear: The lockdown, even in the countries already easing restrictions, will last ‘at least’ three more weeks before opening borders and maybe permitting short flights.
Industry experts are warning about the losses at all levels in the industry, with small, low-cost airlines and many in the cruise industry unlikely to survive.
While the vast majority of flights in April and May have been cancelled, excluding repatriation flights, airlines are hoping to resume operations ahead of the peak July and August season, despite more somber industry predictions.
Some airlines such as Jet2 and Ryanair expect to resume flights in June, while easyJet has launched holidays for late 2020 and is trying to convince travelers to book summer flights by cutting its fees for hold luggage to £1. Despite those moves, it’s becoming clear that overseas travel won’t be possible any time soon.
In a move that probably will be extended to the rest of the industry, the airline has announced that once travel restrictions are lifted it will encourage on-board social distancing by barring use of middle seats.
Such measures could become the new normal for travelers at airports, train and bus stations and aboard all their vehicles.
Domestic flights are more likely to resume before international bookings, airlines could start conducting on-site Covid-19 tests for passengers, while airports could install small testing centers to monitor heart rate, temperature and respiratory rates of passengers in order to reveal infection.
“Ahead of boarding their Emirates flight from Dubai to Tunisia last week, masked passengers were given blood tests for Covid-19, with results delivered within 10 minutes,” reports Quartz. “Emirates, which claims to be the first airline to perform these tests, now intends to scale up its capabilities until they are available before any flight to destinations requiring the Covid-19 test certificates currently under consideration by countries such as Germany and the U.K.”
Theories abound as to how the recovery will occur, starting most likely with permission for road trips, followed by green lights for short flights and train travel, with long-haul flight later.
“When will it be safe? Where to go? By plane, train or automobile?” asks the San Francisco Examiner. There are no clear answers. The general conclusion is that things won’t take a turn to “normal” until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine.
And that will take time. Experts agree that travel restrictions likely will remain in place for many more weeks. Extending France’s state of lockdown, President Emmanuel Macron has called for the external borders of the Schengen passport-free travel zone to stay closed until September, which has been interpreted by experts as a further indication that EU restrictions on travel are set to remain in force for months.
The British government, for its part, has advised people not to book summer holidays and to avoid all non-essential travel indefinitely, with no date suggested as to when domestic or overseas trips can resume.
However, each country will make its decisions, with destinations across Europe facing many different levels of lockdowns making predictions practically impossible.
One indication of light at the end of the tunnel: France decided to postpone the Tour de France until August, meaning that traveling around that country could be on the agenda by then.
There are other hopeful predictions coming from travel experts and agencies. “Autumn and winter getaways could prove more popular than ever as people still want their yearly holiday,” according to a poll by The Sun. “We may see more late bookers as people cautiously search for the best deals and popular familiar destinations. Family favorite destinations such as Florida, mainland Spain and the Canaries are still top on searched destinations and we may see a demand for Caribbean holidays for winter sun at the end of 2020 and into 2021.”
I’m a dual Colombian-Luxembourgish freelance journalist, inveterate traveler and writer based in the world’s only Grand Duchy. I write a column on European affairs for the editorial page of El Tiempo, Colombia’s main newspaper. I have been a columnist for Newsweek and written for, among others, the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune and Toronto Globe & Mail.
Subscribe now for more! http://bit.ly/1JM41yF As coronavirus continues to spread through Europe, infecting an estimated 400 people, the cost of travelling abroad has never been greater. At least 30 British tourists are currently quarantined in the popular H10 Costa Adeje Palace hotel in Tenerife after an infected Italian doctor stayed there on Monday. We speak to four of those tourists before Simon Calder explains your rights if the virus disrupts your holiday, and virologist Stephen Griffin discusses the ongoing health risks. Broadcast on 26/02/20 Like, follow and subscribe to This Morning! Website: http://bit.ly/1MsreVq YouTube: http://bit.ly/1BxNiLl Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1FbXnjU Twitter: http://bit.ly/1Bs1eI1 This Morning – every weekday on ITV and STV from 10:00am. Join Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield, Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes as we meet the people behind the stories that matter, chat to the hottest celebs and cook up a storm with your favourite chefs! Dr Zoe and Dr Ranj answer all your health questions, stay stylish with Gok Wan’s fabulous fashion, be beautiful with Bryony Blake’s top make-up tips, and save money with Martin Lewis. http://www.itv.comhttp://www.stv.tv#thismorning#phillipandholly#eamonnandruth
(Washington) — The Federal Reserve announced late Wednesday that it will establish an emergency lending facility to help unclog a short-term credit market that has been disrupted by the viral outbreak.
The Fed said it will lend money to banks that purchase financial assets from money market mutual funds, including short-term IOUs known as commercial paper.
By facilitating the purchase of commercial paper, which is issued by large businesses and banks, the Fed hopes to spur more lending to firms that are seeking to raise cash as their revenues plummet amid the spread of the coronavirus.
The program is the third facility the Fed has revived from the financial crisis days of 2008, when the central bank set up an alphabet soup of programs intended to keep financial markets functioning.
This facility, known as the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility, is intended to help money market funds unload assets such as commercial paper, but also Treasury securities and bonds guaranteed by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Experts Weigh in on the Impacts of COVID-19 on the Global Economy
TIME spoke with four experts, across various disciplines, about how the COVID-19 pandemic could uproot the flow of business, money and labor around the world.
Money market mutual funds are owned by individual investors in brokerage accounts but also by institutional investors and businesses. Many of the funds have sought in the past two weeks to sell assets to raise cash as many investors redeem shares in the funds. Yet with demand for cash rising as stocks plunge and the economy slows sharply, money market funds have struggled to find buyers for their assets.
March 31 (Bloomberg) — The Federal Reserve released thousands of pages of secret loan documents under court order, almost three years after Bloomberg LP first requested details of the central bank’s unprecedented support to banks during the financial crisis. Bloomberg’s Margaret Brennan, Erik Schatzker and Peter Cook report. (Source: Bloomberg)
On Wednesday night, Trump finally took the coronavirus COVID-19 seriously. He banned all travel to EU countries for 30 days.
The disease may seem benign to some. Around 95% or more of the people who get it will survive and symptoms are generally mild and far from scary. But what is scary is how fast it spreads. And there are too many unknowns about the disease to find comfort in the fact that less than 1,000 people have it.
China went from 1,000 patients to 80,000 in a matter of roughly six weeks, mostly all of it in a self contained, quarantined state called Hubei.
Italy went from around 20 cases two and half weeks ago to over 12,000. It is now the Hubei of the Western world.
Travel bans on China helped mitigate spread from travelers coming to the U.S. from there. All early cases last month were from China travelers. They have since healed.
The U.S. was caught flat footed by Europe, cruises, and European business travelers at major conferences. The U.S. is now playing catch-up in the mitigation phase.
Trump reiterated what the World Health Organization said this week, calling the coronavirus a global pandemic.
We are probably one sick politician, or one more circuit-breaker on the Dow away from declaring a national emergency, forcing the NYSE to close.
“When people don’t want to go out to crowded events you start to wonder if fear begets more fear. We are seeing a lot of that now,” says Patrick Healey, founder and president of Caliber Financial Partners in Jersey City, N.J. “Until you see fewer cases in Europe, I’d be worried. The threat of spread is greater there than it was in China,” he says, citing France, Spain, Germany and the U.K.’s slow response to the crisis.
Cutting The Tail
Italy was about two weeks too late, but at least they are doing something to save Europe. They shut themselves off. This is literally a “stop the world I want to get off” moment. Italy took the China approach. They put themselves on lockdown.
The U.S. has two fairly solid case studies with how to respond to COVID-19. One is the China path of lockdowns and forced quarantining, coupled with massive stimulus.
The other model is South Korea’s massive free testing and treatment, which also corralled the disease and kept infection rates low. Mortality rates are even lower at just under 1%.
A hybrid model of both seems to be best: lockdown clusters of the virus. Test like crazy.
China is healing. It’s already got its stimulus plan lined up.
“The China approach has worked. It’s been a draconian clampdown and takes away quarterly growth,” says Philipp Carlsson-Szlezak, chief economist for Boston Consulting Group in New York. “The high frequency data in China, the proxies for movement for goods and people, all of those see a nice pick up. And the infection rate curve of new cases in South Korea has bent downward. Just hope we don’t see any worsening outbreaks.”
By slowing the spread of the virus, which includes potential spreaders who came from high risk countries like Italy, China, South Korea and Iran, buys healthcare officials time. It keeps hospitals from being overwhelmed, which is what is happening now in Italy as cases rise, Italy still seems to be fine with ICU bed capacity at hospitals.
A nearly three month lockdown of Hubei, the epicenter province, means Hubei now officially has fewer infections than Italy. The number of new patients in China’s “ground zero” has slowed to double digits, instead of thousands three to four weeks ago.
Eventually, South Korea may also be forced to implement a version of the lockdown model to stop the spread of infection after someone working in a call center tested positive for the disease.
Without any firm facts on transmission, the risk of spreading the disease without showing signs of it are high.
As a result, China has maintained strict control of peoples movements in major cities. The South Korea testing model is harder for China due to its massive, urban population, which is why it is so important to keep those cities fairly inoculated.
From on the ground accounts in Beijing, that inoculation requires school closures, no movies, no malls, no non-essential businesses open and most bank branches closed.
Businesses close at 6pm to get sprayed with disinfectant. Street fumigation takes place regularly. Building sterilization takes place several times a day.
Italy is doing exactly this now. Spraying public spaces, primarily.
In China, face masks must always be worn or else you can’t ride in taxis, take public transportation, or enter any business. Temperature readings are mandatory upon entering an office building. People with slight temps get sent straight to quarantine, according to sources there.
Entire neighborhoods are blocked off to non-residents, with security personnel patrolling to check for proof of residence.
Apartments housing someone with the coronavirus are forced into quarantine. No one can leave.
Beijing has under 200 cases today. Shanghai has under 30, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
“We just can’t impose a China style quarantine, but corporations can impose a work from home policy. You can cut off work travel and that is already happening,” says Brendan Ahern, CIO of KraneShares, who is working from home on Thursday. “Corporations here are acting pretty quickly.”
NBA has canceled its entire season. The NHL put the rest of its season on hold. Major League Baseball is thinking of postponing opening day. The BNP Paribas Tennis Open was canceled, scheduled for this week in Indian Wells. Coachella, the outdoor indie rock event, was postponed. Broadway has postponed shows for a month. Private colleges are sending kids home for the semester. Princess Cruises isn’t setting a course for adventure for the next 60 days.
If the U.S. is dragged reluctantly into a South Korea/China lockdown model, it would usher in a further drop in economic activity. Mega stimulus will be only thing keeping it alive.
It is unclear if Republicans and Democrats can work together on this, as some may see a destroyed economy as a way to finally get rid of Trump in 2021.
“You’ll have the market constantly repricing and mispring,” says Nancy Perez, a portfolio manager at wealth management firm Boston Private in Miami. “Both political parties will have to take this on. No party wants to be blamed for not doing something.”
To offset the drag, fiscal stimulus is necessary to make sure companies can meet payroll and rollover debts, preferably at no interest directly from the Fed.
Disaster relief legislation from Congress can draw on the unlimited checkbook of the Fed to help keep individual, corporate, and even municipal bankruptcies from soaring.
“I’m looking at dozens of companies in the S&P 500 right now that can literally go bankrupt if the government doesn’t act together on this,” CNBC star Jim Cramer said on Squawk Box this morning. “The government should not be collecting any cash right now.”
Quarantining a city like New York would represent a significant tax on all business activity. Administration talk of a payroll tax cut is not enough. Bold tax cuts and deferments would be best. For Cramer, a tax holiday for six months or longer is even better.
In the first 8 days of the month, China has:
Required banks to provide a grace period for the virus-hit small and medium sized enterprises (SME) immediately upon application in repaying the principal and interest of their outstanding loans until June 30.
Waived penalty interest
Banks are providing special loan quotas for firms in Hubei, and lowering the financing costs for SMEs.
The Politburo called for accelerating the investment on “new infrastructure”, including 5G networks and data centers
Beijing waived social security taxes for SMEs for five months retroactive to February 1.
Phases Of A Pandemic
According to the Center for Disease Control’s “Pandemic Influenza Plan,” updated in 2017, there are four distinct pandemic stages in terms of caseloads — initiation, acceleration, deceleration and preparation for the next wave.
Europe and the U.S. are now in the acceleration stage.
Hubei is in the deceleration phase, but this comes following two months of lockdown.
Self-protective quarantine, lockdowns of outbreak clusters and testing are the best precautionary approach to pandemic outbreaks, writes Nassim Nicholas Taleb, famous “black swan” forecaster and author of the book Skin in the Game.
Taleb and colleagues from New York University and the New England Complex Systems Institute wrote in a note published recently that cutting mobility in the early stages of an outbreak, especially when little is known about the pathogen, are essential.
“It will cost something to reduce mobility in the short term, but to fail do so will eventually cost everything,” they wrote.
Earlier this week, a shutdown announcement posted outside a hospital in Hubei province’s capital city of Wuhan, touted the treatment of more than 1,700 patients since February 2 without a single fatality.
“If a general return to work occurs this week and new infections do not spike, Chinese markets could quickly be on the mend,” thinks Vladimir Signorelli, head of Bretton Woods Research in Long Valley, New Jersey.
Indeed, they are doing better than the U.S. The S&P 500 is down 23.2%. The CSI-300 Index in Shanghai is down 8.3%.
Should new cases balloon out in Shanghai and Beijing, it would be a huge blow to containment efforts and worsen the global economic outlook. Investors would then calculate similar re-occurring outbreaks in Europe and then in the U.S. once they get cleared of the one they are dealing with now, possibly taking them well into the summer.
“We may have a couple quarters of negative growth and a technical recession because of demand destruction,” says Perez. “Prepare for the volatility.”
Says BCG’s Carlsson-Szlezak, “If we are still dealing with this until the summer, with China-style quarantine measures in effect in places like New York, it will have a massive impact on the economy,” he says. “How massive? We don’t know.”
I’ve spent 20 years as a reporter for the best in the business, including as a Brazil-based staffer for WSJ. Since 2011, I focus on business and investing in the big emerging markets exclusively for Forbes. My work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Nation, Salon and USA Today. Occasional BBC guest. Former holder of the FINRA Series 7 and 66. Doesn’t follow the herd.
The Dow fell more than 12% in total last week. Peter Kraus, chairman and CEO of Aperture Investors, and Liz Young, director of market strategy at BNY Mellon Investment Management, join “Squawk Box” to discuss the week ahead in the markets as investors brace for more turbulence.
Connor Reed, a 25-year-old from Llandudno in North Wales, was working at a school in the Chinese city of Wuhan when he began to feel “a bit sniffly”. He would soon face a painful ordeal and become the first known British man to catch the coronavirus. It was 25 November, 2019, when he first felt unwell. He told Sky News: “I was feeling like I just had a normal cold and the problem with this virus is it progresses in stages. It started with a cold.”
It’s possible that Connor’s cold was unconnected with the virus and he just happened to catch it several days before he was struck by coronavirus. For a while he continued to work and was feeling relatively normal, but just as the cold was tailing-off, in early December, he was struck by flu. “I woke up and I was just feeling really bad. I was coughing a lot and subsequently I lost my voice.
“One of my Irish friends mentioned that hot whisky and honey really helps with symptoms. So, that’s what I tried and honestly, it did help. It really did. But in no way am I condoning that whisky and honey will cure the virus. I mean, it definitely doesn’t.”
At this point, in early December, Connor decided he wasn’t going to go back to work for a while. He had a fever and he didn’t want to pass the illness onto his colleagues. Despite living in what was the epicentre of the virus, as yet, the local authorities were unaware that Wuhan in China was incubating a nasty new disease that would spread across the globe.
“I was feeling achy,” says Connor “I just wanted to curl up into a ball and I had ear problems and sinus problems where it felt like there was a balloon being blown up in my face. And that was probably the worst symptom. It really bothered me. “I also had a raking cough. It was terrible. And it was happening so much, I lost my voice. Sometimes, I couldn’t make any sound at all. Sometimes, I sounded like a frog.”
For most people who catch the virus, it won’t get any worse than this, it may not even get that bad, but for Connor the scariest part was still to come. He actually felt like he was recovering from the flu and was feeling optimistic about going back to work when one morning he woke up struggling to breathe.
“It scared me because breathing is a necessity of life, like if you have the flu, you really feel like you’re going to die, but you’re really not. But when your lungs get affected, that’s where it scared me. And I couldn’t take a full breath. And the breaths I did take, it sounded like I was breathing through a bag. It was very crackly, and I could only take half breaths. If I walked to the kitchen, for instance, I’d be breathing really shallow and really fast.”
Connor continued drinking hot water to try and clear it up but, a day later when things didn’t improve, he went to hospital. On 5 December he had a day of blood tests, x-rays and breathing tests. The next day, two weeks after he’d first caught the cold, the results came back that he had pneumonia.
He said: “At no point was I thinking that I’m going to die. I mean, it wasn’t that serious. I’m a young person. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. It really didn’t affect me as bad as if I was elderly or I had pre-existing health problems.” Connor recovered from his illness and a few weeks later doctors realised he had suffered from the virus that was now spreading across the province, which would become known as COVID-19.
Wuhan is still under quarantine. Connor recalls getting an alert on his phone at 3am announcing the quarantine for the city. “Luckily, I was awake to read that text message. So, I bolted out of the house and went to the 24-hour supermarket downstairs. I knew that it was going to be bad and I knew that shops were going be sold out.”
He stocked up. But weeks later the city continues to maintain strict rules. Connor said: “As more and more new cases came, and it started spreading, the government sanctioned harsher penalties and a lot harsher quarantine. For instance, at the moment, one person is allowed to leave their house every three days, and that’s just to purchase necessities.”
He said when going out there is “no atmosphere”, and very few people on the streets. “If you go to a shop, there are some shops that are open that have blocked the door off. You tell them what you want. They put it into a bag and then they pass the bag to you on a long stick just to avoid personal contact.”
Connor said the national government had dealt with the crisis well and learned lessons from previous outbreaks such as SARS. He believes the numbers for infected people that the authorities are releasing are accurate.
He added: “There are not many Western countries that can build a hospital in 10 days. China is one of the most efficient countries at getting stuff done. In regard to this outbreak, they’ve got it done. They had to. They had to take the drastic measures, that many other countries wouldn’t have taken.”