As deaths from the Covid-19 coronavirus outside of China exceed those within that nation’s borders, and the illness has migrated to all continents but Antarctica, the west braces for impact.
Media reports have been somewhat even handed as the press tries not to freak out the public. While this is a departure from their usual tack, it has created a situation where neither the alarmist nor calm and collected approach seem entirely accurate.
At the higher levels of industry and politics, however, action is being taken.
President Trump has given his 4th quarter salary to the Department of Health and Human Services to aid the efforts at prevention and treatment of the virus.
Vice President Mike Pence, who is taking the lead on the federal government’s response to Covid-19, said that testing should be widespread, and not isolated to either extreme cases or to those individuals who can be tracked to someone or someplace that has an outbreak.
“When I talked to some state officials,” Pence said to reporters at the White House, “there was a sense that the tests would not be administered to people that were mildly symptomatic. We’re issuing clear guidance that subject to doctors’ orders, any American can be tested.”
This is a welcome directive to those who have sought testing and found it difficult to access.
The Federal Reserve is releasing a report today that will give a sense of the effect the virus is having on global supply chains. The Fed cut interest rates by half a percentage point yesterday, in anticipation of these findings, and in hopes that this will curb the economic impact of the virus on U.S. markets.
Mark Zuckerberg took to his platform Facebook to announce that “Through a partnership between [the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative] and the Gates Foundation, researchers in Cambodia were able to sequence the full genome of the virus that causes COVID-19 in days, making it much easier and faster for them to identify if people had the virus.”
He went on to say that “The team created a new public version of the IDSeq tool so scientists everywhere can study the full genome within the broader context of coronavirus sequences uploaded around the world.”
Facebook has offered free ad space to the World Health Organization (WHO) as well, so that they can get information out to the public with ease.
At a press conference in Switzerland, the WHO’s director general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while Covid-19 results in more fatalities than the seasonal flu, it is not as easily transmitted.
“Globally, about 3.4 percent of reported Covid-19 cases have died,” Dr. Tedros said. “By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected.” Included in this estimate are the increasing cases in Iran, Italy, and South Korea.
Italy has closed schools and universities, India has halted export of many pharmaceuticals, France may have to dispense with kissing. As cases begin popping up in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that he could do something if he wanted to. Meanwhile, each state in the union appears to be taking their own version of precautions. Strong government and industry leadership are essential in efforts to curb outbreaks and prevent fatalities.