Friday, February 28, 2020

Some useful coronavirus / #COVID2019 insights from The Atlantic and Bloomberg.Com

From The Atlantic - 

COVID-19 is already reported to have killed more than twice that number [1,000 killed by SARS and MERS respectively]. With its potent mix of characteristics, this virus is unlike most that capture popular attention: It is deadly, but not too deadly. It makes people sick, but not in predictable, uniquely identifiable ways…the new virus may be most dangerous because, it seems, it may sometimes cause no symptoms at all….

The Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch is exacting in his diction, even for an epidemiologist. Twice in our conversation he started to say something, then paused and said, “Actually, let me start again.” So it’s striking when one of the points he wanted to get exactly right was this: “I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable.” … Even with the ideal containment, the virus’s spread may have been inevitable. Testing people who are already extremely sick is an imperfect strategy if people can spread the virus without even feeling bad enough to stay home from work.

Lipsitch predicts that within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he clarifies emphatically, this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he said. As with influenza, which is often life-threatening to people with chronic health conditions and of older age, most cases pass without medical care. (Overall, about 14 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms.)

Lipsitch is far from alone in his belief that this virus will continue to spread widely. The emerging consensus among epidemiologists is that the most likely outcome of this outbreak is a new seasonal disease—a fifth “endemic” coronavirus. With the other four, people are not known to develop long-lasting immunity. If this one follows suit, and if the disease continues to be as severe as it is now, “cold and flu season” could become “cold and flu and COVID-19 season.”


Coronavirus Mismanagement

One nasty coronavirus side effect seems to be that it makes government officials forget how to act. Like the bug itself, this epidemic of shaky leadership is spreading quickly around the world.
As with Covid-19, the clumsiness began in China, where authorities spent the contagion’s early days denying anything was wrong. They got their act together soon enough, enacting drastic quarantine measures, but too late to stop the disease. By then, the World Health Organization had caught China’s overly optimistic attitude. It still won’t call the virus a pandemic, though it increasingly walks and quacks like one. The WHO’s desire to mollify China, a major donor, and avoid a panic have outweighed its need to protect public health, writes Therese Raphael. It’s got to get its priorities straight.
President Donald Trump too has overindulged in coronavirus denialism, with optimistic promises his health agencies, and events, almost immediately contradict. He had a chance to get everybody singing from the same hymnal last night in a news conference, in which he could have reiterated that the disease isn’t the end of the world, while also urging Americans to prepare. Instead, he rambled and ranted at his enemies and gave Vice President Mike Pence the keys to Virus Busters HQ while immediately undercutting his authority, writes Jonathan Bernstein. It was not reassuring.
The administration does seem closer to embracing reality, at least, Max Nisen writes. But its messages remain too mixed, and there’s still not enough action being taken. The disease will quickly test Trump’s claims it’s all under control.
The real poster child for irresponsible coronavirus leadership must be Iran, though, writes Bobby Ghosh. Its deputy health minister, who was caught feverishly sweating on camera even as he tried to downplay the disease, infected who knows how many people all by himself. The regime has been too blithe about the illness; and given how widely Iranians travel throughout the region and the world, this carelessness is a global health problem. It probably won’t be the last.
Further Dubious Virus Response Reading: Hong Kong’s stimulus seems designed more to boost already overinflated property values than to fight virus effects. — Andy Mukherjee

Markets in Coronavirus

Stocks spent another day being slapped around by coronavirus headlines. All told in this sell-off, the major indexes have lost more than 10%, the technical definition of a “correction,” with the pain intensifying after news California is monitoring 8,400 people for the disease. This volatility is just going to be the norm for a while, writes John Authers.
John says these market declines are still orderly, but you can bet a certain president of the United States doesn’t feel that way. He probably agrees with Narayana Kocherlakota’s call for the Federal Reserve to cut rates immediately to fight the virus’s effects on sentiment and economic activity. It risks losing credibility otherwise, Narayana writes.
Ordinarily a rate cut, or simply the promise of one, would be enough to turn markets around. But in this case it would provide only temporary support, warns Jim Bianco. The market won’t truly bottom until it finally stops responding to negative news quite so negatively. And it won’t do that until we have a better handle on the scope of the crisis. And that could take a while.
Further Virus-Market Nexus Reading: