Thursday, February 27, 2020

Live Updates: Coronavirus

Japan, China Close Schools Nationwide As CDC Warns Of Possible "Community Outbreak" In Sonoma County: Live Virus Updates

  • WHO says outbreak in Iran likely worse than official numbers suggest; outbreak could go in "any direction"
  • Iran confirms 22 deaths, vice president for women and family affairs infected
  • Salvini meets with Italian president amid national unity government speculation
  • South Korean new cases surpass China's new cases as SK confirms 505 new cases
  • China, Japan close school nationwide
  • CDC fears 'community outbreak' in Sonoma County after discovering first US case of "unknown origin"
  • Saudi Arabia suspends pilgrimages to Holy Sites
  • Hawaiian Airlines suspends service to South Korea
  • Brazil's neighbors take steps to keep virus out

Update (0920ET): The World Health Organization's Dr. Tedros said Thursday during the organization's daily press briefing that "we are at a decisive point" in the epidemic, while others warned it could go "in any direction."
Iran has confirmed 22 deaths and more than 140 cases, including a vice president who was the third senior official to catch the virus. But many fear the full extent of the outbreak is much broader. During the press conference, another WHO official singled out Iran, claiming the virus had crept into the country "undetected", before adding that the WHO fears the outbreak inside the country is even worse than the government claims.
Iran "has a very high clinical capacity", said Dr. Mike Ryan, the executive director of the WHO's health emergency program. The 10% death rate probably has more to do with the fact that many cases have gone undiagnosed, he said. The country has gone so far as to cancel Friday prayers in Tehran, after the Saudis told pilgrims they wouldn't be allowed in to the Muslim Holy Sites.

Following European stocks dive into correction territory, in the US, the Dow is on the cusp of falling into correction territory intraday for the first time since December 2018 (remember when?).
As traders digest the implications of the new case in Sonoma County that could be evidence of the first case of "community transmission" in the country, as well as President Trump's rambling press conference on Wednesday, the focus has shifted back to Europe, where in Italy, cases climbed above 500.
According to the FT, Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League, the head of the parliamentary opposition, has met with President Sergio Mattarella as speculation mounts about the prospects for a national unity government to deal with the crisis, following several political missteps by PM Conte.

Coronavirus And The Economic Impact

Charles Hugh Smith

The economic storm hasn't passed; the false calm is only the eye of the financial hurricane.
To understand the economic cataclysm ahead, do the math. Those expecting the Covid-19 pandemic to leave the U.S. economy untouched are implicitly making these preposterously unlikely claims:
1. China will resume full pre-pandemic production and shipping within the next two weeks.
2. Chinese consumers will resume borrowing and spending at pre-pandemic rates in a few weeks.
3. Every factory and every worker in China will resume full pre-pandemic production without any permanent closures or disruptions.
4. Corporate America's just-in-time inventories will magically expand to cover weeks or months of supply chain disruption.
5. Not a single one of the thousands of people who flew direct from Wuhan to the U.S. in January is an asymptomatic carrier of the coronavirus who escaped detection at the airport.
6. Not a single one of the thousands of people who flew from China to the U.S. in February is an asymptomatic carrier of the coronavirus.
7. Not a single one of the thousands of people who are in self-quarantine broke the quarantine to go to Safeway for milk and eggs.
8. Not a single person who came down with Covid-19 after arriving in the U.S. feared being deported so they did not go to a hospital and are therefore unknown to authorities.
9. Even though U.S. officials have only tested a relative handful of the thousands of people who came from Covid-19 hotspots in China, they caught every single asymptomatic carrier.
10. Not a single asymptomatic carrier caught a flight from China to Southeast Asia and then promptly boarded a flight for the U.S.

I could go on but you get the picture: an extremely contagious pathogen that is spread by carriers who don't know they have the virus to people who then infect others in a rapidly expanding circle has been completely controlled by U.S. authorities who haven't tested or even tracked tens of thousands of potential carriers in the U.S.
These same authorities are quick to claim the risk of Covid-19 spreading in the U.S. is low even as the 14 infected people they put on a plane ended up infecting 25 passengers on the flight. These same authorities tried to transfer quarantined people to a rundown facility in Costa Mesa CA that was not suitable for quarantine, forcing the city to file a lawsuit to stop the transfer.
Do these actions instill unwavering confidence in the official U.S. response? You must be joking.
Do the math, people. The coronavirus is already in the U.S. but authorities have no way to track it due to its spread by asymptomatic carriers. People who don't even know they have the virus are flying to intermediate airports outside China and then catching flights to the U.S.

None of the known characteristics of the virus support the confidence being projected by authorities. The tests are not reliable, few are being tested, carriers can't be detected because they don't have any symptoms, the virus is highly contagious, thousands of potential carriers continue to arrive in the U.S., etc. etc. etc.
The network of global travel remains intact. Removing a few nodes (Wuhan, etc.) does not reduce the entire network's connectedness that enables the rapid and invisible spread of the virus.
Second, what authorities call over-reaction is simply prudent risk management. As I noted yesterday in How Many Cases of Covid-19 Will It Take For You to Decide Not to Frequent Public Places?, when an abstract pandemic becomes real, shelves are emptied and streets are deserted.
It doesn't take thousands of cases to trigger a dramatic reduction in the willingness to mix with crowds of strangers. A relative handful of cases is enough to be consequential.
Many of the new jobs created in the U.S. economy over the past decade are in the food and beverage services sector, the sector that is immediately impacted when people decide to lower their risk by staying home rather than going out to crowded restaurants, theaters, bars, etc.

Many of these establishments are hanging on by a thread due to soaring rents, taxes, fees, healthcare and wages. Many of the employees are also hanging on by a thread, only making rent if they collect big tips.
Central banks can borrow money into existence but they can't replace lost income. A significant percentage of America's food and beverage establishments are financially precarious, and their exhausted owners are burned out by the stresses of keeping their business afloat as costs continue rising. The initial financial hit as people reduce their public exposure will be more than enough to cause many to close their doors forever.
As small businesses fold, local tax revenues crater, triggering fiscal crises in local government budgets dependent on ever-higher tax and fee revenues.
A significant percentage of America's borrowers are financially precarious, one paycheck or unexpected expense away from defaulting on student loans, subprime auto loans, credit card payments, etc.

A significant percentage of America's corporations are financially precarious, dependent on expanding debt and rising cash flow to service their expanding debt load. Any hit to their revenues will trigger defaults that will then unleash second-order effects in the global financial system.
The global economy is so dependent on speculative euphoria, leverage and debt that any external shock will tip it over the cliff. The U.S. economy is far more precarious than advertised as well.
The economic storm hasn't passed; the false calm is only the eye of the financial hurricane.

Israel Downs Drone Launched From Gaza

Israeli jets down drone launched from Gaza

Israeli fighter jets downed a drone launched from the Gaza Strip on Thursday, the army said.
The drone was flying “in an unusual way” westward over the Mediterranean, the army said, without specifying whether it was outfitted with explosives or dangerous materials.
The UAV was flying at 1,700 feet, five to eight miles off the coast, when it was hit by an Israeli F15 jet just before 11 a.m., the army said.
In general, the Israeli military does not interfere with drones flying over the Gaza Strip unless they approach the border or fly at especially high altitudes. In October and November of last year, the army shot down three drones in separate incidents.
Thursday’s incident came as Israel was relaxing its restrictions on the Gaza Strip as violence emanating from the Hamas-run enclave waned.
Over the course of Sunday and Monday, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group fired roughly 100 rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel. In response, the Israel Defense Forces launched several waves of retaliatory strikes against the organization in Gaza and — in a highly irregular move — inside Syria.

Japanese Female Confirmed To Have Reinfection: Tests Positive For Second Time

Japanese woman confirmed as coronavirus case for second time, weeks after initial recovery

 A woman working as a tour-bus guide in Japan has tested positive for the coronavirus for a second time, Osaka’s prefectural government said, the first known person in the country to do so amid growing concerns about the spread of the infection.

The second positive test comes as the number of confirmed cases in Japan rose to 186 by Thursday from around 170 the day before. Tokyo has urged big gatherings and sports events be scrapped or curtailed for two weeks to contain the virus while pledging the 2020 Olympic Games will still go ahead in the city.

The 186 cases reported by Japan’s health ministry are separate from 704 reported from an outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise liner that was quarantined off Tokyo earlier this month. A total of seven people have died, including four from the ship.

Though a first known case for Japan, second positive tests have been reported in China, where the disease originated late last year. The outbreak has spread rapidly and widely, infecting about 80,000 people globally and killing nearly 2,800, the vast majority in mainland China.

The woman, a resident of Osaka, in western Japan, tested positive on Wednesday after developing a sore throat and chest pains, the prefectural government said in a statement, describing her as being in her forties. She first tested positive in late January and was discharged from hospital after recovering on Feb. 1, according to the statement.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said in parliament the central government would need to review patient lists and keep tabs on the condition of those previously discharged, as health experts analyzed the implications of testing positive for the virus after an initial recovery.

“Once you have the infection, it could remain dormant and with minimal symptoms, and then you can get an exacerbation if it finds its way into the lungs,” said Philip Tierno Jr., Professor of Microbiology and Pathology at NYU School of Medicine.

Tierno said much remains unknown about the virus. “I’m not certain that this is not bi-phasic, like anthrax,” he said, meaning the disease appears to go away before recurring.

Asked to comment on prospects for the Olympic Games going ahead in Tokyo this summer, Tierno said, “The Olympics should be postponed if this continues ... There are many people who don’t understand how easy it is to spread this infection from one person to another.”

Japan has changed its strategy in combating the contagion, seeking to slow its spread and minimize the number of deaths. Public broadcaster NHK said the crew of the Diamond Princess would begin disembarking on Thursday, and those with no symptoms would remain at a facility near Tokyo for further monitoring.

Israel vs Gaza Recap: No Closer To Preventing The Next Round

10 bouts in Gaza later, Israel not much closer to preventing the next round

Israel’s two-day battle with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group this week was its tenth major round of fighting in the Gaza Strip in the past two years.
No Israelis were seriously injured in this bout, and the roughly 100 rockets and mortar shells fired at southern Israel caused minimal property damage, as some 90 percent of projectiles heading toward populated areas were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, according to the military.
With the accumulated experience from nine previous conflicts, Israel has gotten markedly better at fighting these one-to-three day battles — while doing little to prevent them from happening in the first place.
But the Islamic Jihad also appears to have improved its tactics, firing its rockets with greater accuracy at Israeli communities. In one barrage of 14 rockets, 12 were directed toward populated areas, requiring interception by the Iron Dome, whereas in the past a far greater number would have struck open fields without the military needing to intervene.
The immediate catalyst for Sunday and Monday’s flareup was the poorly handled aftermath of a well-handled mission to prevent two PIJ members from planting a bomb along the border. After killing one of the Islamic Jihad operatives, the Israel Defense Forces sent a bulldozer into the buffer zone within the security fence to retrieve the body, a scene that was caught on film and elicited anger and disgust within Gaza and around the world.
The strong reaction to this incident provided the PIJ with an excuse to retaliate, which it did on Sunday evening, with dozens of rockets fired at southern Israel.
But this was widely seen as little more than an excuse for the Iran-backed terror group to carry out a larger-than-normal assault on Israel, having long been working to undermine the ceasefire negotiations between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas with more limited attacks — intermittent rocket launches, sniper fire, infiltrations and border bombings.
The IDF retaliated with its own greater-than-normal response, striking a PIJ facility inside Syria, south of Damascus, killing at least two members of the group. This appeared to be part of interim Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s strategy of responding more forcefully to attacks from the Strip. But instead of dealing a crushing blow to Islamic Jihad to force it to back down, the terror group said the attack prompted it to fire yet more rockets at Israel as a form revenge for the deaths of its operatives.
Dozens of rockets and several rounds of retaliatory airstrikes later, both sides wound up roughly back where they started.

CDC: 'Disruption Of Daily Life Might Be Severe'

The CDC Warns Businesses, Schools, Communities to Prepare NOW for Covid19: “THE DISRUPTION OF DAILY LIFE MIGHT BE SEVERE.”

Daisy Luther

Today Nancy Messonnier, who is the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases issued a stark warning about the potential spread of Covid19 through the United States.

“We expect we will see community spread in this country,” said Dr. Messonnier. “It’s more of a question of when.” (source)

Whenever there’s a direct warning from the government agencies whose job it is to manage crises in ways that don’t cause a panic, I always wonder how bad the situation actually is and what they’re nottelling us.  While this was the most bluntly worded warning, it isn’t the only one this week.
In a briefing, she discussed the measures that businesses, schools, and communities needed to prepare to take to tackle the looming outbreak.

“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare for the expectation that this could be bad…”
Schools should consider dividing students into smaller groups or close and use “internet-based teleschooling,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters on a conference call.
“For adults, businesses can replace in-person meetings with video or telephone conferences and increase teleworking options,” Messonnier said.
She said local communities and cities may need to “modify, postpone or cancel mass gatherings.” Hospitals may need to triage patients differently, add more telehealth services and delay elective surgery, she said.
“Now is the time for businesses, hospitals, communities, schools and everyday people to begin preparing,” she said. (source)

Anyone who has watched the way the government handles things that could potentially cause a panic should realize that this is a warning that problems are imminent.
And not just minor problems. Messonnier said, “The disruption of daily life might be severe.” 
This briefing certainly coincides with the line of thinking in our earlier article today entitled, This Is Not a Drill.

What happens next?

In all likelihood, the next official warning will be something that makes it extremely difficult to put last-minute preparations into place. We need only to look at how quickly parts of northern Italy were locked down to see how it might go here.

In all likelihood, the next official warning will be something that makes it extremely difficult to put last-minute preparations into place. We need only to look at how quickly parts of northern Italy were locked down to see how it might go here.
One day there was a sick guy. The next day there were a few sick people. The day after that people were advised not to leave their homes and those breaking quarantine were threatened with three months in prison. All in just three days.
The next official statement could run the gamut. It could be anything from curfews, a recommendation for social isolation, the lockdown of cities or towns with clusters of illness, or full-on quarantine where people are forced to stay in their homes. Sign up herefor updates.

The novel coronavirus outbreak in eastern China’s ShandongProvince is much worse than what has been officially reported, according to a series of internal government documents obtained by The Epoch Times.
Each day from Feb. 9 to Feb. 23, Shandong authorities underreported the number of infections, according to internal data compiled by the Shandong Center for Disease Prevention and Control (SCDC). The SCDC kept a tally of the number of people who tested positive for the virus during nucleic acid testing—using a diagnostic kit to test patient samples and detect whether they contain the virus’s genetic sequence.
The SCDC’s daily new infection numbers ranged from 1.36 times to 52 times greater than the officially published data by the Shandong health commission and China’s National Health Commission.
As of Feb. 25, the Shandong government stated that there were a total of 755 infections in the province. But the internal document showed that 1,992 people had tested positive for the virus via nucleic acid testing as of Feb. 23.
The government publicly stated that there were four newly diagnosed patients on Feb. 22, but the internal document said that there were 61 positive tests that day.
In recent days, official data has shown new infections leveling off. For example, on Feb. 25, the National Health Commission reported only a total of nine new diagnosed cases outside of Hubei Province, where the outbreak is most severe.
In fact, Shandong alone had new infections in the double-digits daily. On Feb. 20, new infections spiked, with 274 people testing positive.
To date, it’s the most definitive evidence that Chinese authorities routinely underreport cases. Previously, The Epoch Times interviewed workers at funeral homes in the city of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, who said they had to work around the clock to keep up with the dramatic increase in workload.
Health experts have also hypothesized that Chinese official figures are inaccurate, based on their statistical modeling. Recently, a group of U.S. researchers published a study, not yet peer-reviewed, in which they suggested cumulative infections and deaths in China could be “substantially higher” than officially stated—by a factor of 5 to 10.
“[Beijing] is trying to create an image that most of the country is safe enough to resume production,” Tang said.


U.S. No Longer Hide Fact That Nuclear Drills Are Aimed At Russia

Convenient hysteria: US is no longer sugar-coating the fact its nuclear drills are aimed at Russia

Mikhail Khodarenok

Last week, the US conducted a military exercise which simulated a nuclear exchange with Russia and contrary to traditional practices, the Pentagon put that politically explosive designation out in the open.
Any operational directive (or combat order) starts with an overall “enemy” assessment which includes data about the “enemy’s” political situation and military capabilities in the strategic area of interest, as well as possible scenarios of engagement. 
Sometimes a particular enemy is designated for these exercises, but usually it’s just given some abstract label (such as blue, green or orange). Even fake countries, like Donovia or Limaria, are invented in some cases.
All the documents pertaining to military exercises are usually classified. Depending on the level of sensitivity, they are marked as “secret” or “top secret.” All this is done in order to avoid souring relations with other states, which might well happen if, for instance, the papers reveal that one nation is role-playing an attack on another.
Nuclear war games are always classified as top secret. Basically, all documents related to strategic nuclear forces operations would be the most restricted military data in any nuclear state.

And then a senior Pentagon official comes out and says, at the DoD Background Briefing on Nuclear Deterrence and Modernization, that they held a "mini-exercise" with a scenario that “included a European contingency where [the troops] were conducting a war with Russia, and Russia decided to use a low-yield limited nuclear weapon against a site on NATO territory.” The exercise was complete with a simulation of a conversation between the secretary of defense and the president “to decide how to respond.”
Forget cautious secrecy, the full transcript was published on the DoD’s website. This makes one think, what is that about? One thing we can say for sure is that it definitely does not help maintain or promote peace and friendly relations in the world.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Coronavirus Updates:

CDC Confirms First US Coronavirus Case Of 'Unknown Origin': Live Updates

  • CDC confirms first case of 'unknown origin' in US
  • CDC reports 6 new cases among repatriated Americans
  • WaPo reports Northern California has 16th US case, says it's first of "unknown origin" and risks local spread
  • 83 being monitored in Nassau County
  • Orange County declares state of emergency
  • Norway has confirmed its first case
  • 8 quarantined in Westchester
  • HHS confirms 15th US case
  • Iran deaths hit 19
  • Brazil confirms first case in South America
  • France confirms 2nd death
  • Tokyo pushes back against Tokyo Games cancellation talk
  • Greece confirms first case
  • Germany unleashes fiscal stimulus after confirming new cases
  • Dems one-up Trump with $8.5 billion package.
  • Kuwait, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain confirm new cases
  • Finland confirms 2nd case
  • 1st 2 cases reported in Pakistan
  • HHS Secretary tells Congress infectious disease fund has no extra uncommitted cash
  • Congress begins talks on corona virus spending bill with vote expected early next month
  • Germany health minister warns we're at beginning of epidemic in Germany; 5 new cases
  • Italy confirms 12th death, cases soar above 400
  • North Macedonia confirms first case
  • South Korea cases soar above 1,200 as gov't begins testing of 200k patients
  • Brazil confirms infected patient came on plane from Paris
  • Ericsson confirms one of its employees in Croatia tested positive

The announcement, which was scooped by WaPo, follows Trump's press conference, where he named Mike Pence to be his "Coronavirus Czar" (though Trump made clear he didn't like that terminology).
One economist with praised Trump's performance, saying the appointment of Pence would help the administration clarify the narrative after yesterday's "bungled messaging."
"In naming Vice President Mike Pence as the administration’s point person in charge of the response to the coronavirus outbreak, President Trump attempted to show a concerted effort after bungled messaging. Even so, he couldn’t avoid the opportunity to spend more time at the briefing room lectern instead of letting the experts address health concerns."
Update (1850ET): Just as President Trump was appointing VP Mike Pence to oversee the US's virus response, the Washington Post reported that the first US coronavirus case of unknown origin has been reported in Northern California.
They added that the case is a sign that the virus "may be spreading in a local area."
The CDC won't disclose the exact location of the case, according to the paper.
Of course...

* * *
Update (1755ET): FoxLA reports that Orange County officials declared a local health emergency Wednesday in response to the coronavirus, which has now infected more than 81,000 people worldwide. Michelle Steel, chair of the county Board of Supervisors, and board Vice Chair Andrew Do made the announcement at an early afternoon news conference.

Our declaration of local emergency today signed by Dr. Quick is about preparedness. It does not indicate a greater risk of harm, there are no current incidents reported in the county of Orange,” stated Supervisor Andrew Do.
There has only been one confirmed case of the virus in Orange County, according to county health officer Nichole Quick, that one patient has been treated and is no longer showing signs.
The Orange County decision follows San Diego County, where officials declared a local emergency in response to the coronavirus on Feb. 14, and San Francisco Mayor London Breed declared a local emergency on Tuesday.
*  *  *

Paying The Price For Our Faustian Bargain With China

Charles "Sam" Faddis 

Roughly forty years ago we and the Chinese entered into a true Faustian bargain.   We agreed to open our markets to Chinese goods, and the Chinese in exchange opened their nation to foreign investment and manufacturing.

We were motivated by greed.  Factories in China would have access to seemingly unlimited quantities of low cost workers.  It did not hurt that those factories would be unencumbered by unions, workplace safety laws or environmental regulations.
The Chinese were motivated by a desire to survive.  The Soviet Union was tottering toward extinction, destroyed not by American forces on the battlefield but by rot and inefficiency in its economy.  The Chinese would escape that fate by giving their people a higher standard of living and a more comfortable lifestyle in exchange for the continued acceptance of an oppressive, totalitarian regime.
The bargain was made.  As with all pacts with the devil the bill has come due, this time in the form of the coronavirus.

Well over two months ago the coronavirus began to explode in China.  The Chinese government did what it always does.  It lied.  It covered up the truth.  It attacked those who claimed there was a serious problem and accused them of spreading disinformation and propaganda.  On the internet, the Chinese deployed an army of bots, similar to those it used to bury the truth about protests in Hong Kong last year.

U.S. firms are already experiencing significant delays in getting shipments from China, but they are fortunate in the overall scheme of things. Given the distances involved, American companies have yet to experience the full force of shutdowns, because products were already in transit when the virus hit with full force. For a glimpse of the future, though, we need only look at South Korea.
South Korea’s giant Hyundai complex at Ulsan, the world’s biggest auto assembly facility, recently shut down. The complex, which includes five separate automobile plants and makes 1.4 million vehicles a year is offline, because it cannot get the critical parts it needs from China. Twenty-five thousand workers have been laid-off. Hyundai is not the only firm affected. Other major car companies in South Korea are either shutting down, limiting operations or considering doing so.
Here’s the real bad news. It is likely only going to get worse. The Chinese Communist Party has no choice. A citizenry out of work, out of money and faced with the truth that its government cannot combat the growing epidemic may finally revolt. The coronavirus is not just threatening lives. It is threatening the very existence of the regime.
So, in desperation, the Chinese government is forcing factories open and herding hundreds of millions of workers, many of whom were locked down and in isolation, back into the crowded dormitories where they live during the work year, half a dozen men or women to a room, using communal bathrooms and working on overcrowded factory floors. There could not possibly be a better petri dish environment to guarantee a disease – already defying all efforts to control it – explodes.
We made our deal with the devil. Like Faust the price we pay will be a terrible one.