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How coronavirus panic is making virus containment more difficult

February 7, 2020, 11:47 PM UTC

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Happy Friday, readers.

Here’s a lesson in how an outbreak like the coronavirus—and the panic which comes with it—can threaten the broader efforts to contain the pathogen worldwide.

On Friday, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that hospitals and other health agencies around the world are facing a shortage of essential protective gear such as masks, gloves, and other medical equipment. Where is it all going? Frightened people are snatching the equipment up in a frenzy to protect themselves.

The concerns and prophylactic measures are understandable, especially in the regions most deeply affected by the 2019-nCoV outbreak, which has now claimed nearly 650 lives and infected more than 31,000 people.

But the downstream effects underscore the importance—and complexities—of balancing personal care versus public responsibility.

“The world is facing a chronic shortage of personnel protective equipment, as you might imagine,” said Ghebreyesus on Friday.

Hoarding medical equipment could be a detriment to health professionals who rely on such products. The big lesson is one most people learn during their early years: sharing is caring. And, in this case, it’s also a lifesaving measure.

Read on for the day’s news, and have a wonderful weekend.

Sy Mukherjee
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com
@the_sy_guy

DIGITAL HEALTH

A massive cancer genomics project encompasses four continents. A massive new study published in the journal Nature brings together scientists from four separate continents, hundreds of affiliations, and the sequencing of 2,658 cancer genomes across multiple tumor types. The Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) Consortium was behind the effort, which uses whole genomes (rather than partial ones) in order to parse out the complexities of cancer, and generate "a wealth of insights into the genetic basis of cancer." I'll let the researchers explain more of the details. (Nature)

THE BIG PICTURE

The benefit of covering mental health costs. There's a strange bifurcation between physical and mental health—one which doesn't make a lot of scientific (or economic sense). Liat Jarkon, director of the Center for Behavioral Health and Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine, wrote a piece for Fortune that delves into the very real societal and economic benefits of covering mental health in a more comprehensive fashion. "Refusing to cover mental health care during a suicide epidemic is absurd. It's also not economically cost effective: In 2016 alone, treating chronic diseases cost $3.7 trillion in the U.S, according to a Milken Institute report," Jarkon writes. (Fortune)

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Tesla's growth problems by the numbersby Shawn Tully

Apple extends store closures in China over coronavirusby Mark Gurman

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