Random headlines from the health emergency that seems to be moving from being an epidemic to a global pandemic….
• Bloomberg reports that COVID-19 coronavirus cases have topped 109,000 worldwide, with more than 3,800 deaths.
One estimate is that the number of cases is doubling every seven days.
• From the New York Times this morning:
"The United States faces an accelerating pace of new coronavirus case reports — each of the last six days has brought more than the day before — as well as the prospect of more sweeping measures to fight the spread of the virus. Over the weekend, more than 230 cases were added, bringing the national total to well over 500.
"In Washington State, with the epicenter in the Seattle area, Gov. Jay Inslee said he was considering mandatory measures to help keep people apart. Public school districts in several states have shut down, universities are moving classes online and canceling large gatherings, companies are telling many employees to work from home, and houses of worship are limiting services. A global health conference in Orlando, Fla., planned for Monday, with President Trump as a speaker, has been called off."
The Times goes on:
Officials are not yet talking about locking down whole American cities, as China and Italy have done. But the specter of isolation — of telling people in affected areas not to go out — is hovering in communities where the infection has taken hold.
"'I don’t think you want to have folks shutting down cities like in northern Italy — we are not at that level,' Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview. 'Social distancing like in Seattle is the way to go. I’m not talking about locking down anything. There’s a big difference between voluntary social distancing and locking anything down.'
"Dr. Fauci and other officials have been signaling that, with many new cases popping up that have no known link to foreign travel, the spread of the virus in the United States may have reached the point where it can no longer be completely contained by isolating the sick and quarantining their contacts."
• From USA Today:
"Costco is among the retailers struggling to keep some products on shelves as frenzied shoppers flock to its warehouses to stock up on disinfectant, bottled water and other goods out of concerns about the coronavirus. 'We’re getting deliveries daily, but still not enough given the increased levels in demand on certain key items,' Costco's CFO Richard Galanti said … 'Clearly, not just at Costco but at other places, you really can’t go in and generally find sanitizing items,' he added. 'And while we’re getting shipments daily, somewhere in the U.S. in whatever limited amounts … It’s gone pretty quickly. I would assume that over the next few weeks or several weeks that’ll abate. But it depends what else happens with the virus'."
• WPTV News reports that "Publix supermarkets are limiting the amount of hand soaps, hand sanitizers and other items that customers can buy because of increased demand. Stores are limiting customers to purchasing a maximum of two items for products such as gloves, wipes, and rubbing alcohol."
• The 34th edition of South by Southwest, the iconic Austin, Texas, music/film/technology festival scheduled to begin on Friday, has been cancelled.
It was, the New York Times writes, "canceled by city officials on Friday over fears about the rapid spread of coronavirus. Festival organizers and government officials had come under intense pressure in recent days to pull the plug on South by Southwest, with more than 50,000 people signing an online petition and a growing list of tech companies - among them Apple, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok - announcing their withdrawal."
In 2019, the story notes, "South by Southwest’s various events had a combined attendance of 417,000, including 159,000 who came to the music portion, according to festival figures … Last year, the various events associated with South by Southwest - which also include programs on gaming, comedy and education - contributed $356 million to the Austin economy, according to figures circulated by the festival."
• From CNN:
"Two Republican members of Congress on Sunday announced they will self-quarantine after interacting with an individual who tested positive for the novel coronavirus at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona separately said they will take the step out of caution and don't currently have any symptoms related to the pandemic."
In addition, The Hill reports that "Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC, confirmed that he too had interacted with the infected individual at one point before later shaking hands with President Trump."
• Italy over the weekend issued a government decree that "bans people from entering or leaving large swaths of northern Italy, including the cities of Milan, Venice and Parma and much of Italy’s industrial heartland," according to the Wall Street Journal. "Residents of the quarantine zone aren’t allowed to travel within it, employees are asked to take leave and at-risk groups such as the elderly to stay in their homes. The decree says police and army can be deployed to enforce the quarantine if necessary. People found breaking the rules can, in theory, face up to three months in prison."
However, the story notes, there was immediate confusion: "Transport services continued, enforcement wasn’t yet evident and Italians wondered how it was meant to work … On Sunday afternoon, there was little sign that Italian authorities in the north were enforcing the new decree, for example by deploying police to prevent people from traveling. Trains were still going to and from Milan’s central station, with no controls on passengers … There was no immediate disruption to air travel, either, with scheduled flights still departing and landing in Milan. A sign at Milan’s Linate airport assured passengers that regular service was continuing. Italy’s national carrier, Alitalia, said it would reduce the number of flights in and out of Milan."
• The annual Indian Wells, California, tennis tournament has been cancelled.
From the press release: "The Riverside County Public Health Department has declared a public health emergency for the Coachella Valley after a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) locally. As a result, the 2020 BNP Paribas Open will not take place at this time due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus and the safety of the participants and attendees at the event. This is following the guidance of medical professionals, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and State of California.
“'There is too great a risk, at this time, to the public health of the Riverside County area in holding a large gathering of this size,' said Dr. David Agus, Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. 'It is not in the public interest of fans, players and neighboring areas for this tournament to proceed. We all have to join together to protect the community from the coronavirus outbreak'."
- KC's View:
One thing I noticed over the weekend was that at Stew Leonard's in Norwalk, Connecticut, the checkout person was spraying and wiping down the scanner and credit card reader after every customer went through … which just gave a sense of confidence. I wonder how many other retailers are having their people do that? (I didn't see it happening in any of the other three supermarkets I went to over the past few days.)