First case in the Northeast

It was only a matter of time:

Health officials in Massachusetts confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the state after a man returning from Wuhan, China, tested positive for the virus.

The man is in his 20s and lives in Boston, the state’s Department of Health said in a press release on Saturday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified health officials about the case late Friday evening, the release stated, adding that the risk to the public is low.

This is the eighth confirmed case of coronavirus in the United States. The other cases are two in Illinois, three in California, and one each in Washington state and Arizona.

And a possible case in the Big Apple:

On Saturday, the New York City Department of Health announced that a person in the city has been identified for testing. Health officials said the person, who is under 40 years old, had recently traveled from China and “presented with fever and cough or shortness of breath without another common cause.” Testing to determine whether the person has the first confirmed case of coronavirus in New York will take 36 to 48 hours.

The China travel ban comes not a moment too soon. Hopefully it’s not too late.

China’s global connectivity has become a casualty:

On Saturday, Australia followed the US by imposing a ban on entry to most travellers from China. Canberra said citizens, residents or relatives would still be allowed in. Countries including Uzbekistan and Vietnam cancelled flights from China altogether.

Dozens of commercial carriers have cut back or halted flights to China, and several hotel chains have said they will allow cancellations by Chinese travellers. Major companies such as Google and Facebook have banned travel to the country, while international retailers such as Starbucks and Apple have shut stores.

In Hong Kong, where there are strong memories of the impact of the 2003 Sars outbreak, thousands of hospital staff went on strike, demanding that authorities close the border. (…)

Cases of human-to-human transmission, which has driven the fast rise in infections inside China, have been detected in Germany, Thailand, Taiwan, France, Japan and the US.

Coronavirus and the precautionary principle

From a paper on the novel coronavirus co-authored by Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

It will cost something to reduce mobility in the short term, but to fail do so will eventually cost everything—if not from this event, then one in the future. Outbreaks are inevitable, but an appropriately precautionary response can mitigate systemic risk to the globe at large. But policy- and decision-makers must act swiftly and avoid the fallacy that to have an appropriate respect for uncertainty in the face of possible irreversible catastrophe amounts to “paranoia,” or the converse a belief that nothing can be done.

From a study published Friday in The Lancet and co-authored by Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of public health medicine at the Hong Kong University:

“Large cities overseas with close transport links to China could also become outbreak epicentres, unless substantial public health interventions at both the population and personal levels are implemented immediately,” the study said.

Press conference given by Leung on Jan 27:


The number of people infected by the Wuhan coronavirus could potentially double every six days in the absence of a major intervention by public health authorities, according to Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of public health medicine at University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Leung, who is also the founding director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Infection Disease Epidemiology and Control in Hong Kong, gave his forecast on the likely extent of the outbreak during a press conference held at HKU on Monday afternoon.

He said he had submitted his report to Beijing and Hong Kong authorities as well as to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Leung said according to his team’s model, the number of cases of Wuhan coronavirus including patients that are incubating (not showing symptoms) could approach 44,000 cases as of January 25. […]

Leung said people need to be prepared for the outbreak to become a global epidemic, though it is “not a certainty by any stretch of the imagination…we must prepare better for it.”

Well that escalated quickly (coronavirus edition)

Is this what the beginning of the end of the world looks like?

BREAKING: China confirms 5,974 virus cases, exceeding nation’s SARS total – AFP

A comment from yesterday:

BREAKING: #China says that #coronavirus infections increased from 2,887 to 4,515 *an increase of 56% in a single day*. Deaths increased 29% to 106.

This is just the beginning. Expect these numbers to continue to rise…quickly

#Beijing — population 21.5 million — reported its first death from #2019_nCov and shut down 28 bus routes to nearby cities.

#Shanghai—population 24.2 million — already recorded a death, and now has 13 new cases of #coronavirus (total of 66).



Coronavirus *appears* to be highly contagious as well as serious:

Having YEARS of experience developing an #Ebola treatment, I was concerned about this #CoronavirusOutbreak from the outset, because this #coronavirus strain is very contagious, causes severe illness, and NO treatments or vaccines are available.

Unlike H5N1 “bird flu” (which does not spread easily between people) or SARS (which was spread by only a handful of “super spreaders”), this #coronavirus DOES appear to spread easily between people, even after making the jump from an animal (this is not common).

In addition to being highly contagious, this novel #coronavirus can cause a SEVERE infection that can kill even healthy people. It’s rare to see BOTH of these (bad) attributes in the same novel virus. Usually, it’s one or the other.

More reason for alarm:

The Chinese regime is likely underreporting the true scale of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a Harvard epidemiologist.

Fears of a rampant epidemic are mounting after the infectious disease hit most parts of China and have spread to over a dozen countries globally.

Official figures record the pneumonia-like virus infecting thousands and killing scores, although experts say the total number of infections is vastly greater than that reported by the communist regime.

In a recent study by Imperial College London, the researchers found that “self-sustaining human-to-human transmission” is the “only plausible explanation of the scale of the outbreak in Wuhan.”

Researchers said that each infected individual could infect 2.6 others, on average, and the authorities would need to block transmission of more than 60 percent of the cases to contain the outbreak. […]

China has quarantined 17 cities, postponed school openings, and extended the week-long national Lunar New Year holiday to Feb. 2, in an attempt to curb the disease’s spread.

Despite such efforts, 5 million people left the virus epicenter of Wuhan before the lockdown took effect on Jan. 23.

As it turns out, we are dealing with the consequences of another SARS-type government coverup:

Everyone must understand, first of all, that this epidemic was allowed to spread for a period of more than forty days before any of the abovementioned cities were closed off, or any decisive action taken. In fact, if we look at the main efforts undertaken by the leadership, and by provincial and city governments in particular, these were focused mostly not on the containment of the epidemic itself, but on the containment and suppression of information about the disease

Shanghai has seen its first death from the virus.

Russia’s Far East has closed its border with China.

Japan and Germany confirm coronavirus cases in people who had not traveled to Wuhan.

The US has decided not to block flights from and to China.

It’s hard to know what is real and what is media- and government-generated hysteria. The information from China is incomplete and hardly reliable, and it seems that nobody outside China knows what is going on.

Then there’s this:

The novel #coronavirus outbreak may reach its peak in one week or around 10 days, and then there will be no large-scale increases, says Zhong Nanshan, a renowned Chinese respiratory expert

We see through a glass darkly. As a hedge against gullibility, here’s a thread in which a science writer debunks hysterical claims by a Harvard epidemiologist.

On the other hand, I would note that the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918-19 infected some 500 million people, or about one-third of the human race, and killed at least 50 million people.

Mongolia closes China border, bans public gatherings

The country whose most famous landmark is a giant statue of Genghis Khan decides it isn’t going to be taking any chances with the highly infectious virus from Wuhan:

BREAKING: Mongolia has banned all public gatherings and closed its border with China due to coronavirus outbreak

UPDATE: From a source on the ground (Antonio Graceffo)…

They closed the university, they closed all the schools. I heard from foreigners that are on expat contracts that their companies are telling them to leave because the airports are going to be closed soon. What I heard was, if and when they close the airport, it will only be for incoming flights, not for outgoing flights, so they would still be able to leave.

We’re on lockdown now in Ulaanbaatar. I’m staying.

Corona chronicles

More virus craziness.

Taiwanese musician Jay Chou allegedly inside a quarantine unit:

Road closures:

The inside of a bullet train heading towards Hubei province (source):

Stay out of my village:


Build that hospital quick:

Almost all of Hebei province is being cordoned off:

Some 56 million people are affected.

As one person commented, “This scene is usually about 15 minutes into the 2 hour movie”:

First official dead:

First infant infected:

A hot topic:

Valuable commodities:

Last flight from Wuhan

The US government stages a Last Flight from Saigon for the Americans caught up in the Wuhan Quarantine:

All aboard the Virus Express!

Japan and France are also pulling their people out. The UK and Australia are considering it.

One California-based angel investor raises a salient point:

China quarantines an entire city to stop a deadly virus from spreading. America decides to take people with “greater risk” direct to SFO.

A better plan may be to send these folks supplies so they can shelter in place. Airlifting them out into a commercial airport is not smart.


Health officials in Los Angeles County have confirmed a fourth U.S. case of the new pneumonia-like virus from China.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said Sunday the infected person presented themselves for care once they noticed that they were not feeling well and is currently receiving medical attention.

The person is a returning traveler from Wuhan City, China. The case came on the heels of confirmed cases in Orange County, California, Washington state and Chicago.


Authorities on Sunday confirmed the fifth known case of the new coronavirus in the U.S.

The newly identified case was out of Maricopa, Ariz., Centers for Disease Control (CDC) director of National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Nancy Messonier told reporters.

The confirmation follows two confirmed cases reported Sunday out of California. Cases in California have been confirmed in Orange County and in Los Angeles, according to the CDC.

Meanwhile, in Canada:

Breaking: Federal health officials say the Toronto man who has the coronavirus was symptomatic on the airplane last week when he was returning to Canada. Efforts are now underway to reach passengers who may have been in contact with him.

Health officials stress the risks to the public remain low. This virus is transmitted by droplets, i.e. when a person coughs or sneezes. People in close proximity to the infected patient, i.e. those seated next to him or immediately in front/behind may be at an increased risk

Work is being done to contact those seated within two metres of the Toronto man infected with #nCoV2019 on the plane. People who simply waked past him in the airport likely face no risk. The man flew China Southern Airlines flight CZ311 from Guangzhou to Toronto on Jan. 21.

The man took private transportation home and had limited contact with anyone after arriving home. He called 911 the next day after he developed a cough, fever and other symptoms. Toronto health officials are monitoring his family members for the next ~14 days.

What’s going in the UK?

Government officials were last night searching for some 2,000 people who flew from Wuhan to the UK over the past fortnight.

The Department of Health and the Border Force were scrambling to track down those who might not have shown any symptoms when they landed, but could still have been carrying the coronavirus.

There are usually three flights a week from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, meaning up to 2,500 passengers and crew arrived over the two-week period, though some will have already left the country.

Guess that Wuhan quarantine wasn’t exactly airtight:

About 5 million people left #Wuhan because of the Spring Festival and #pneumonia outbreak, Mayor of Wuhan, Zhou Xianwang, said on Sunday.


More than 22 million are now cordoned off in central China. Seen around the web…


As of Thursday night, a total of seven cities in Hubei have imposed transport bans, including Wuhan, Ezhou, Huanggang, Xiantao, Zhijiang, Chibi and Qianjiang.


Wuhan’s public health authorities say they are in a “state of war” as they quarantine the Chinese city in an attempt to halt the spread of a never-before-seen strain of coronavirus.

“Strictly implement emergency response requirements, enter into a state of war and implement wartime measures to resolutely curb the spread of this epidemic,” urged a committee of Wuhan’s top officials. “Homes must be segregated, neighbors must be watched.” […]

The sudden decision to lock down the city of 11 million residents, who were given less than eight hours’ notice of the suspension of public transportation, suggests the severity of the outbreak has alarmed China’s leaders. Wuhan’s lockdown comes only two days before the official start of Lunar New Year, a major, weeklong holiday during which hundreds of millions normally travel within and outside China. […]

Isolated cases of the virus, known as 2019-nCoV, also have been found in Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the U.S., Macao and Hong Kong. On Thursday, Singapore announced its first confirmed case — a 66-year-old Chinese national from Wuhan, according to the Ministry of Health.

NY Post:

The first US patient to contract the deadly coronavirus is being treated by a robot doctor in a tiny secured room to reduce the risk of the disease spreading, according to a report.

Decked out with a stethoscope, camera and microphone, the cutting-edge automaton has been tending to the 30-something man in a 20-by-20-foot “isopod” at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash., a hospital chief told The Guardian.

The unnamed patient — who recently returned from a trip to central China — was picked up at his home, taken to the hospital by ambulance and placed in the closed isolation unit Monday, according to Dr. George Diaz, chief of infectious diseases.

Twitter has some wild stuff:

Wuhan people being smuggled outta Dodge:

And this… really makes you think. “Fortuitously,” said the Washington Post:

This is unfolding like the plot of The Stand.

I don’t why but this concerning story from last August feels relevant:

Bio-warfare experts question why Canada was sending lethal viruses to China

In a table-top pandemic exercise at Johns Hopkins University last year, a pathogen based on the emerging Nipah virus was released by fictional extremists, killing 150 million people.

A less apocalyptic scenario mapped out by a blue-ribbon U.S. panel envisioned Nipah being dispersed by terrorists and claiming over 6,000 American lives.

Scientists from Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) have also said the highly lethal bug is a potential bio-weapon.

But this March that same lab shipped samples of the henipavirus family and of Ebola to China, which has long been suspected of running a secretive biological warfare (BW) program.

China strongly denies it makes germ weapons, and Canadian officials say the shipment was part of its efforts to support public-health research worldwide. Sharing of such samples internationally is relatively standard practice.

But some experts are raising questions about the March transfer, which appears to be at the centre of a shadowy RCMP investigation and dismissal of a top scientist at the Winnipeg-based NML.

“I would say this Canadian ‘contribution’ might likely be counterproductive,” said Dany Shoham, a biological and chemical warfare expert at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University. “I think the Chinese activities … are highly suspicious, in terms of exploring (at least) those viruses as BW agents.“

Posted without further comment.

An abundance of caution

The Wuhan coronavirus is apparently spreading much faster than SARS. The Chinese government, it seems, is concerned:

I visited Wuhan a couple times, many years ago. Even at the time it was described as “the Chicago of China.” A thriving economic, manufacturing and education hub.

Perhaps the US should be more concerned than it is:

Twenty-one students and five chaperones from the province at the epicenter of the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China arrived in the D.C. region two days ago to take part in a school exchange program with Longfellow Middle School in Falls Church, Virginia.

Fairfax County Public Schools has confirmed with FOX 5 that the students will no longer take part in classes at the school, which were supposed to begin Wednesday, and they will not stay with host families in the area “out of an abundance of caution.” Instead, the students will stay at hotels until February 3, and visit tourist and cultural sites.

Oh, they will be visiting museums instead of attending school. That’s reassuring.

My modest proposal: shut down international travel until we get this thing firmly under control.

Selling rice to China

This is how it’s done. Story that I missed from July:

A private importer in China last week bought U.S. rice for the first time ever, in the midst of a trade war between the two nations, a rice industry group said on Wednesday.

The Chinese importer bought two containers, about 40 tonnes, of medium-grain rice from California-based Sun Valley Rice, said Michael Klein, a spokesman for USA Rice, a trade group that promotes the sale of the U.S. grain. […]

China is the world’s largest rice grower and consumer, producing 148.5 million tonnes of the grain in the 2018/19 marketing year and importing 3.5 million tonnes.

“International discourse power”

Bill Bishop weighs in on NBA-gate:

The NBA has leverage in China, if it works as a united front. PRC fans, sponsors, web sites and broadcasters can shun one team, but they can not and will not shun an entire league. Do you really think those fans are going to be satisfied watching CBA games? There would be a social stability cost to banning the NBA in China. I am serious.

This NBA episode may backfire on Beijing here in the US as there is bipartisan outrage. That said, given the DC news cycle Commissioner Silver will likely remain much more worried about CCP Commissars than the US Congress.

The broader context for this crisis is that the CCP has long pushed to increase its “international discourse power 国际话语权“, and as with many things its efforts have intensified under Xi. The idea is that China’s share of international voice is not commensurate with its growing economic, military and cultural power and that the Party should have much more control over the global discussion of all things Chinese, in any language, anywhere.

The Party is taking at least a two-track approach to rectifying this problem. On the one hand it is launching, buying, co-opting and coercing overseas media outlets. On the other it uses the power of the Chinese market to co-opt and coerce global businesses, their executives and other elite voices. The Global Times summed up the second track nicely:

The biggest lesson which can be drawn from the matter is that entities that value commercial interests must make their members speak cautiously. Chinese consumers are not overly sensitive. Wherever it is, touching a raw political nerve is extremely risky. Morey has neither the IQ nor the EQ to talk about political topics. He will become an example of clumsiness on some MBA courses.

I must admit I find the patronizing rhetoric of Chinese state media to be greatly entertaining. “He will become an example of clumsiness on some MBA courses” is a powerful dig.

China’s attempts to police foreign discourse about it have also hit a rough patch in central Europe:

Prague’s decision to end its sister-city agreement with Beijing reflects “tangible anger” in the Czech Republic over the president’s pro-China policies, analysts say.

The Prague city council voted on Monday to pull out of the partnership deal after mayor Zdenek Hrib’s unsuccessful bid to get Beijing to remove a “one China” pledge from the agreement. He argued that the pledge – confirming Beijing’s sovereignty over Taiwan – was a political matter and unsuitable for inclusion in the sister-city deal because it was a cultural arrangement.

The decision, which still needs approval from the city assembly, was understood to have prompted heated exchanges between Chinese diplomats and Czech officials.

One Czech diplomat told the South China Morning Post on Tuesday that they had stressed it was a city-level decision.

It’s almost as if angrily demanding pledges of loyalty from everyone in the world is a suboptimal strategy for winning friends and influencing people. The Czechs are starting to wake up, apparently, and so are Americans.