Wuhan coronavirus update: the media’s tone gets darker, but there is some good news

The tone of coverage in the Western press turned darker on Sunday, as the news of shorter latent/incubation periods and asymptomatic transmission we reported yesterday hit larger publications.

The possibility that the 2019-nCoV strain may become endemic rather than being suppressed was discussed for close to the first time in the biotechnology news website Stat News, while the Guardian, interviewing Neil Ferguson, author of the WHO modeling study we discussed yesterday, reported on that study’s conclusion that up to 100,000 latent cases of the disease might already exist.

The topline figures on disease spread continue to be distressing as well: a total of over 2,700 cases in almost every Chinese province and a dozen countries, including five cases in the United States (in Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, Orange County, California, and Arizona) and the confirmation of a second human-human transmission in Thailand. Authorities in Hubei now have thirty thousand people under medical observation, and the death toll has escalated above 80.

However, all of this news falls under the general framework we discussed in our long feature on Friday. Escalating case numbers, deaths, and geographic spread are to be expected, since it hasn’t been enough time for the recently-instituted protective measures to take effect.

It will be at least three more days until the Wuhan travel lockdown begins to show up in even a slowing of the rate of growth, and possibly over a week.

The news of likely high latent case numbers and asymptomatic transmission were also already reported in the academic press as of Friday.

And as of Sunday night, all five US cases of the disease were infected in Wuhan, with no confirmation of any transmission occurring inside the United States.

In fact, Sunday brought a significant piece of positive news: the astounding migration numbers from Wuhan, which seem to explain the Chinese government’s frighteningly aggressive response without resorting to talk of nightmare scenarios and government coverups.