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Wuhan coronavirus: key developments for the week of 2/2/2020

A collection of key developments in the fight against the Wuhan coronavirus (nCoV-2019), updated throughout the week for those who just want the signal and not the noise. If there’s something you think we should include, sound off in the comments thread attached to each week’s post.

Visit our Wuhan coronavirus status page and learn how to prepare for possible spread to your area. Scenarios, shopping lists, background info, and everything else you need, all in one place.


The latest key developments post is here, as I’ve started breaking them out by day instead of one link dump. I will chain them together, though, to make it possible to page through them.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

[9:48 am] Foxconn is warning its staff not to come back to work, which is bad news for Apple and its customers — Foxconn makes the iPhone. The Shenzhen region in general is a critical manufacturing region for so much of America’s high-tech industry, so if it shuts down, we’re all going to feel it.

[9:46 am] The financial ripple effects of this continue to widen and become more severe, as China now has some 400 million people in some stage or other of lockdown and quarantine. That is more people than live in the US, and closing in on a third of its population.

[9:45 am] There is a popular story going around alleging that Tencent accidentally leaked the “real” Chinese case and fatality numbers. We’re skeptical, and so far this Twitter thread is the best debunking effort we’ve found. If you know more either way on this from a reliable, legitimate source, please let us knows.

[9:44 am] Three more confirmed cases in Singapore, where we now have cases showing up that aren’t connected to any previously known cases or travel history to China. In other words, the virus seems to be spreading unconstrained in the community, there. This numbers will surely rise in the coming days.

[9:42 am] A blockbuster new study says that half of the people who get this virus are getting it from someone who doesn’t yet show symptoms. If that holds up, then it seems difficult to imagine authorities being able to contain this in any way. Right now, all of the containment efforts are based on temperature checks at the most relaxed, and even more often on the presence of multiple symptoms. But how do you contain it if people are spreading it for days asymptomatically?

[9:38 am] A cruise ship in Japan has been quarantined with 3,700 people on board. The case count there keeps rising, and at this point there are 61 cases on board. Every time a new case is discovered, they reset the two-week quarantine clock for how long they’re keeping all those people isolated. At this rate, they will be on the water a very long time.

[9:36 am] This paper from a team of doctors in the front lines in Wuhan is very important, as it’s an actual cohort study that gives a key look at the rates of severe illness and fatality among hospitalized patients.

Findings In this single-center case series involving 138 patients with NCIP, 26% of patients required admission to the intensive care unit and 4.3% died. Presumed human-to-human hospital-associated transmission of 2019-nCoV was suspected in 41% of patients.”

One of the authors of this paper was interviewed by Chinese media, and the result is a gold mine of information about how contagious this virus is (very), how it spreads, what types of people have what outcomes, and how big of a threat it is to global healthcare systems if it goes pandemic.

[9:32 am] Researchers are finding that the virus lasts a long time on surfaces. “For disinfection, the researchers recommend agents based on ethanol, hydrogen peroxide or sodium hypochlorite. If these are used in the correct concentration, they drastically reduce the number of infectious corona viruses within one minute – from one million to only 100 disease-causing particles.”

[9:30 am] The death of Dr. Li Wenliang, one of the original eight whistleblowers in China who was arrested for getting the word out about the virus, has caused a major uproar in China. The Chinese people are in an open rage over his death, and he’s rapidly becoming a symbol, a martyr, and a big problem for the government.

[9:28 am] The endangered pangolin could be where the virus stopped over between bats and humans. “Genetic sequences of viruses isolated from the scaly animals are 99% similar to that of the circulating virus — but the work is yet to be formally published.””

[9:27 am] Coronavirus tests U.S. medical system’s unhealthy reliance on China for drugs, supplies. “The basic building blocks of U.S. health care are now under the control of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Thursday, February 6, 2020

[4:50 pm] Scenes from Wuhan look like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie.

[4:49 pm] Singapore seems to have local transmission of the virus running unchecked, now.

[4:48 pm] There is an eleventh case in Germany, now, transmitted from person-to-person contact.

[4:47 pm] CDC has formally announced it is shipping out new lab diagnostic kits for the virus, so that more labs in the US will have the capability to screen for it.

[4:46 pm] Infected Chinese citizens in Wuhan are being put into military-run mass quarantine camps under 24-hour guard.

According to a widely shared post on Weibo, a popular social media site, “conditions were very poor” at an exhibition center that had been converted into a quarantine facility. There were power failures and electric blankets could not be turned on, the user wrote, citing a relative who had been taken there, saying that people had to “shiver in their sleep.”

There was also a staff shortage, the post said, where “doctors and nurses were not seen to be taking note of symptoms and distributing medicine,” and oxygen devices were “seriously lacking.”

[4:42 pm] The whistleblower who alerted the world to how serious this virus is, and was punished for it, has died of the virus.

There was a ton of weirdness around this death announcement, with China first announcing his death, then claiming he was still alive, then later re-announcing it. It looks like what probably happened, is they announced his death but weren’t prepared for him to be instantly martyred on Chinese social media and to become a focal point for outrage against the government. So they tried to walk it back and claim he was still alive, until that became untenable and they gave up.

[4:42 pm] Two new “presumptive cases” of coronavirus in British Columbia.

[4:40 pm] Questions and answers with Neil Ferguson, one of the leading epidemiologists working on this outbreak, and one of the folks we recently interviewed. He thinks the outbreak is far bigger than the official numbers suggest, and is spreading rapidly.

[4:38 pm] A great back-and-forth with an epidemiologist on the challenges of developing a vaccine for this outbreak. He thinks a vaccine is a year out at the very earliest, but possibly even later. In the meantime, everything will hinge on infection control measures.

[4:34 pm] Today’s official outbreak numbers:

[4:34 pm] A very good explainer on the many overlapping challenges of calculating an accurate case fatality rate (CFR) for this new outbreak. The next time you see anyone expressing confidence about the CFR for this disease, show them this link.

Wednesday, January 5, 2020

[6:08 pm] The Prepared goes on NPR to talk about the sudden surge of interest in all things prepping.

[6:05 pm] The latest case counts:

[6:00 pm] This is quite a quote in the Harvard Gazette:

“Many epidemiologists and people who are following this outbreak closely are assuming that it’s probably quite a bit more widespread than the case counts suggest,” said Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Many people also think that there’s probably over 100,000 in reality out in mainland China, for example. We just don’t capture all of those through the case reporting we have. … We can assume that this is growing at somewhat of an exponential rate, and it will continue increasing in scale.”

[5:58 pm] Ten passengers on a Japanese cruise ship have tested positive for the new virus. (hat tip James W.)

[5:53 pm] Coronavirus comes to Wisconsin, and is the 12th confirmed US case.

[5:53 pm] According to science, the best place to sit on a plane to avoid catching this from an infected passenger is a window seat. So grab that window seat, stay there, and do not get up if you can at all help it.

[5:51 pm] American and United both suspend flights to Hong Kong over virus fears, and because of low demand. (hat tip Griz).

[5:51 pm] Canada now follows the UK in telling all of its citizens in China to get out now if at all possible. (hat tip Grizz)

[5:20 pm] Funeral home workers in Wuhan are working 24/7 to cremate bodies.

[5:20 pm] Some experts are now assuming that it will definitely hit us here, and are talking about how to limit the spread within the US.

[5:19 pm] Panic buying in Hong Kong, as people rush out to stock up on supplies:

[5:19 pm] The sight of this Chinese military-run quarantine camp is chilling:

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

[9:39 am] The UK government’s foreign office tells its citizens: “if you’re in China and able to leave, you should do so.”

[9:39 am] Macau is closing all its casinos for 15 days.

[9:37 am] One of the nine evacuees from Wuhan into Belgium has the virus. (hat tip @The_Dr_Caveman)

[9:21 am] Morning stats dump, courtesy of CEDR Digital Corps.

[9:13 am] Former FDA commissioner Scott Gotleib tells SquawkBox: “If we don’t start to see outbreaks in the next two or three weeks, we might have dodged a bullet… However, I think we’re going to start seeing secondary spread in the United States in the next two or three weeks, and then it’s going to be a difficult month.” (hat tip to commenter Grizz Lee for the link.)

[9:13 am] First major Chinese airliner suspends flights to the United States over coronavirus outbreak

[9:13 am] The NEJM paper we and many others have cited, which claimed evidence of asymptomatic transmission of the virus, was flawed per one of the virologists involved. There are some prominent experts who still believe asymptomatic transmission is happening, but this particular paper wasn’t an instance of it. More on the paper in this short Twitter thread, and a look at what asymptomatic transmission is and is not in this thread.

[9:13 am] Xi Jinping Warns Virus May Impact China’s Social Stability. These concerns about social cohesion are being shared ever more widely online, as scenes of violence in the quarantine zones make their way from Chinese social media onto US sites.

[9:13 am] The Chinese lockdown is spreading rapidly:

Monday, February 3, 2020

[6:54 pm] China agrees to allow US health experts into the country under the auspices of the WHO, to study the virus.

[6:53 pm ]Risk communication expert Peter Sandman joins the backlash against those telling everyone to quit worrying about the new coronavirus and worry about the flu instead. His piece is a must-read.

[6:51 pm] Chinese are abandoning food delivery services over fears over fears of catching the virus from the delivery person.

[10:17 am] The latest studies suggest most transmissions of 2019-nCoV are symptomatic, even though asymptomatic transmission is possible

[10:17 am] A new study from China puts the CFR at 6.5%, but we still have no real clarity on this number.

Hubei has seen 56% growth in confirmed cases over the last two days. All medical facilities are swamped, and there are critical shortages of important supplies

[10:17 am] There are reports on Chinese social media and at legitimate Chinese news outlets of widespread cremation of deceased pneumonia cases who are not counted as confirmed cases. China’s officially announced policy is now immediate cremation of victims.

[10:17 am] In China outside Hubei, the quarantine appears to be taking effect and is slowing or halting growth in case numbers, raising the possibility the epidemic could be exterminated like SARS.

[10:17 am] The growth of case numbers outside China has been reduced even more, so that extermination in first world countries seems quite possible.

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  • Grizz Lee

    Scott Gottlieb, Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, says he expects us to see secondary person-to-person transmission start ramping up in the US in the next two weeks, and if that doesn’t happen then we probably dodged a bullet:

    Fingers cross on that bullet dodging.

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    • Jon StokesThe Prepared Grizz Lee

      Thanks! I actually caught that SquawkBox clip via Twitter but couldn’t find it again, so this is great.

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  • Grizz Lee

    The UK is mentioned already, but now Canada is telling citizens to leave China if at all possible by any means possible.

    United & American have also suspended flights to Hong Kong:

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  • James Wagner

    Saw on ZeroHedge that there are 10 cases on a Japanese cruise ship. Buckle up!

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  • James Wagner

    Found a couple links this morning:

    Third UK case confirmed:

    US fast-tracked the tests:

    I am really wondering about the CFR, because I am still seeing a lot of different numbers being thrown around. Anyone?

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