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The coronavirus picture gets clearer with updated infection, death numbers

February 18, 2020, 7:53 PM UTC

Hi, Erika Fry filling in for Sy Mukherjee today.

The threat of an impending global pandemic didn’t go away over America’s long weekend. The novel coronavirus outbreak that began late last year in Wuhan, China continued apace with confirmed cases standing at more than 72,000 and deaths nearing 1,900—most of them in China’s Hubei province. Health care workers have been among the most vulnerable; a hospital director in Hubei was among the dead today.

Though many have questioned the effectiveness of such measures, China has redoubled its effort to contain the virus via mass quarantine and travel bans: the New York Times today reported the country has placed 150 million people under lockdown and that half of the nation’s 1.3 billion people face restrictions on movement.

Meanwhile, the virus is now spreading through communities outside the outbreak’s epicenter; in Singapore and Japan, both of which have tallied dozens of COVID-19 cases, leaders have signaled that containment efforts like contract tracing and quarantining may not be manageable.

Further afield, French Health Minister Olivier Véran declared that COVID-19 becoming a pandemic is both “a working assumption and a credible risk,” and UN Secretary General António Guterres, calling it “a very dangerous situation,” flagged concerns about how countries with weak health systems will fare if that happens.

While uncertainty abounds, we do have a slightly clearer picture of the virus and its toll thanks to a recent analysis released by China’s CDC. The report, which looked at 44,672 confirmed cases reported before February 11, found the vast majority—80.9%—were mild. 13.8% were severe and 4.7% critical. While noting the study had various limitations, its authors reported a case fatality rate of 2.3%.

All of this signals more economic fallout ahead. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in today called the situation an economic “emergency.” Closer to home, Apple said yesterday it would miss its first quarter revenue targets. An analyst told me last week he expects the total cost of this outbreak to be $90-270 billion.

A more precise accounting of the impacts—human and economic—will only come with time. For now, as I wrote recently for the magazine, when it comes to this outbreak and what to expect, even the world’s leading experts simply don’t know.

Erika Fry
erika.fry@fortune.com
@ErikaFry

DIGITAL HEALTH

Tech giants, WHO meet to discuss coronavirus misinformation. CNBC reports that tech giants Facebook, Google, and Amazon met with World Health Organization (WHO) officials recently in order to broach an awkward topic: How the companies' various social media and content distribution platforms may be feeding misinformation about the coronavirus. (Representatives from Twitter, YouTube, and Salesforce, among others, were also reportedly present.) A combination of actual fake news about the virus from trolls and money-grubbing ploys that seek to exploit fears over the outbreak spurred the meeting. (CNBC)

Social fitness network Strava finds people don't really run because they love doing it. The fitness tracking and social media platform Strava is out with a new survey that appears to confirm what many may have already suspected—people who run don't tend to do it for the love of the run. They do it in order to improve self-confidence and address body image issues, and to tackle health issues such as heart problems or mental health. In fact, only 8% of the 25,000 surveyed runners said they "love" to run. By contrast, about half said they either hate running or can barely stomach doing it. (Reuters)

INDICATIONS

Sanofi to work with HHS on coronavirus vaccine. French drug giant Sanofi announced Tuesday that it's working with the Department of Health and Human Services' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to work on a coronavirus vaccine. That brings the number of companies developing either vaccines or antiviral therapies meant to tackle the disease up to more than a dozen (others include Johnson & Johnson, Gilead, and a slew of other firms). (Reuters)

The FDA is keeping a close watch on medical supply chain disruptions. The Food and Drug Administration released a formal statement saying that the agency is aware that the coronavirus outbreak "will likely impact the medical product supply chain, including potential disruptions to supply or shortages of critical medical products." We've already seen plenty of real-world evidence for this. Just last week, British drug giant AstraZeneca specifically cited coronavirus for uncertainty in its 2020 financial outlook; European regulators are also bracing for drug shortages related to the virus, which has disrupted supply chains across multiple industries. China is both one of the biggest consumers and manufacturers of medicines in the world. (FDA)

THE BIG PICTURE

The best companies to work for in health care. Fortune is out with its latest 100 Best Companies to Work For list—and, wouldn't you know it, a number of health care firms made the cut. Texas Health Resources, BayCare Health System, Baptist Health South Florida, AbbVie, Genentech, and others were all included on this year's list for a combination of factors including employee diversity, benefits, workplace culture, and leadership training, among others. Check out the whole thing here. (Fortune)

REQUIRED READING

Can San Francisco be saved? by Adam Lashinsky

Why it's so hard for China's factories to get back to workby Eamon Barrett

20 maps charting the rise of the modern megacityby Nicolas Rapp & Brian O'Keefe

Oracle and Google are about to face off in tech's trial of the centuryby Jeff John Roberts

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