DPC The Mammoth Oak at Pass Christian, Mississippi 1900
The game is changing. The virus has taken the logical next step: first, expand beyond Hubei, now expand beyond China. Major cluster in South Korea, first death in Italy. Big question mark is Iran, what health care structure is in place there? Four deaths out of seemingly nowhere doesn’t spur confidence.
• Cases 77,928 (+ 1,138 from yesterday’s 76,790).
• Deaths 2,362 (+ 115 from yesterday)
And a list of affected countries so far. Check back again in a week or so. Note: death in Italy is not yet included.
As I wrote 2 days ago in Go Forth and Multiply, the key terms going forward will be “false negative” and “asymptomatic”.
CNN had an interview live with a woman who just got off the ship. Yay! No quarantine!
• Asymptomatic Wuhan Woman Infects Five Relatives With Coronavirus (G.)
A 20-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan travelled hundreds of miles to another city where she infected five relatives without showing signs of infection, Chinese scientists have said, offering new evidence that the new coronavirus can be spread asymptomatically. The case study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, offered clues about how the coronavirus is spreading, and suggested that it might be difficult to stop. According to the study by Dr Meiyun Wang of the People’s Hospital of Zhengzhou University and colleagues, the woman travelled 400 miles (650km) from Wuhan to Anyang in Henan province on 10 January and visited several relatives.
When they started getting sick, doctors isolated the woman and tested her for coronavirus. Initially, the young woman tested negative for the virus, but a follow-up test was positive. All five of her relatives developed Covid-19 pneumonia, but as of 11 February, the young woman still had not developed any symptoms, her chest CT remained normal and she had no fever, stomach or respiratory symptoms, such as cough or sore throat. Scientists in the study said if the findings are replicated, “the prevention of Covid-19 infection could prove challenging”.
World Health Organization officials have praised China’s lockdown of millions of people as helping to buy time for the rest of the world to prepare for the new virus. But as hot spots emerge around the globe, such as South Korea and Iran, health officials are having difficulty finding and isolating the first source of the virus – the so-called index case. This is fuelling concern that the disease has begun spreading too widely for tried-and-true public health steps to stamp it out. “A number of spot fires occurring around the world is a sign that things are ticking along, and what we are going to have here is probably a pandemic,” said Ian Mackay, who studies viruses at the University of Queensland in Australia.
[..] Dr William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University medical centre in Nashville, who was not involved in the Zhengzhou University study, said the Wuhan woman’s case provided a “natural laboratory” to study Covid-19. “Scientists have been asking if you can have this infection and not be ill? The answer is apparently, yes,” he said. “You had this patient from Wuhan where the virus is, traveling to where the virus wasn’t,” he said. “She remained asymptomatic and infected a bunch of family members and you had a group of physicians who immediately seized on the moment and tested everyone.”
“China, which officially has over 76,000 cases, had just 397 cases, while South Korea with just 204 cases, had an increase of 142, or about a third of all of China’s new cases..”
• COVID19 Mortality Rate Hits New Lifetime High Of 3.0% (ZH)
[..] as China scrambles to goal seek its propaganda number, the world’s attention has shifted to what has emerged as the second coronavirus hotspot, South Korea, where the number of cases is certainly not doctored, pardon the bad pun, and where there is a truly exponential increase in new cases, which are now doubling with every passing day in a terrible, if accurate, representation of what indeed happens when there is a viral epidemic. Late on Friday we got painfully clear example of just this when China reported that on Feb 21, there were just 397 new Coronavirus cases bringing the total to 76,288, a plunge of more than 50% from the previous day’s adjusted increase of 889 and a number which is now completely meaningless in light of what has become a daily adjustment by China.
Meanwhile, the number of deaths, which China has so far failed to revise (but will surely try before this is all over), rose by 109 to 2345, and with the number of cases barely rising, it also means that the mortality rate his now hit a new lifetime high of 3.0%. Which also means that China has to pick: keep fabricating the number of cases while the real deaths keep rising and the mortality rate creep ever higher, or change the definition of death. So if Chinese data is now meaningless (and the only thing that matters is if and when its economy will come back on line), there is South Korea, and it is here that things have turned south quick.
Or rather north if one follows the latest number of cases, because one day after total South Korean cases doubled (having doubled the day before that, and again the day prior), on Saturday South Korea reported that there was another stunning increase in the total number of cases which rose by 142 in one day, a 70% increase from the prior day, to a new high of 346; Putting this stunning increase in context, China, which officially has over 76,000 cases, had just 397 cases, while South Korea with just 204 cases, had an increase of 142, or about a third of all of China’s new cases! South Korea also reported its second coronavirus linked death.
With the number of people in South Korea being tested for coronavirus surging to 5,481, up from 3,180 last night, it is virtually certain that this exponential increase in new confirmed cases will last for quite a while, perhaps even longer than China’s, unless of course, South Korea learns from Beijing just how to change the “definition” of cases and fast. Thanks to South Korea, the number of cases in the top 7 countries outside China with the most cases, including Iran, and excluding the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship, is close to turning exponential as well.
Italy has two separate issues. A cluster of 15 cases in Lombardy, and a death in Padua, 250km from there.
• Italy Reports 1st Virus Death, Cases More Than Quadruple (AP)
Italy reported its first death from the new virus from China early Saturday and the number of people infected more than quadrupled due to a cluster of cases that prompted officials to order schools, restaurants and businesses to close. State-run RAI television reported a 78-year-old man, one of two people in northern Veneto region to have been infected, died Friday. Italian news agencies ANSA and LaPresse also reported the death, citing the Veneto regional president, Luca Zaia. In Lombardy, at least 14 new cases were confirmed, representing the first infections in Italy acquired through secondary contagion and bringing the country’s total to 19.
The cluster was located in a handful of tiny towns southeast of Milan, said Lombardy regional health chief Giulio Gallera. “This was foreseeable even if we hoped it wouldn’t have happened,” Gallera said. The first to fall ill was a 38-year-old Italian who met with someone who had returned from China on Jan. 21 without presenting any symptoms of the new virus, health authorities said. That person was being kept in isolation and appears to present antibodies to the virus.
15 tested positive, 5 of them doctors.
• 10 Italian Towns In Lockdown Over Coronavirus Fears (IBT)
Authorities in northern Italy on Friday ordered the closure of schools, bars and other public spaces in 10 towns following a flurry of new coronavirus cases. Five doctors and 10 other people tested positive for the virus in Lombardy, after apparently frequenting the same bar and group of friends, with two other cases in Veneto, authorities said at a press conference. Over 50,000 people have been asked to stay at home in the areas concerned, while all public activities such as carnival celebrations, church masses and sporting events have been banned for up to a week. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said “everything is under control”, and stressed the government was maintaining “an extremely high level of precaution”.
Streets in the towns were deserted, with only a few people seen abroad, and signs showing public spaces closed. In Casalpusterlengo, a large electronic message board outside the town hall read “Coronavirus: the population is invited to remain indoors as a precaution”. The first town to be shuttered was Codogno, with a population of 15,000, where three people tested positive for the virus, including a 38-year old man and his wife, who is eight months pregnant. Three others there have tested positive to a first novel coronavirus test and are awaiting their definitive results. Codogno mayor Francesco Passerini said the news of the cases “has sparked alarm” throughout the town south of Milan. The 38-year old, who works for Unilever in Lodi, was in a serious condition in intensive care. Some 250 people were being placed in isolation after coming into contact with the new cases, according to the Lombardy region, and 60 workers at Unilever have been tested for the virus.
I see chaos in your future…
• US Prepares For Coronavirus Pandemic, School And Business Closures (R.)
U.S. health officials on Friday said they are preparing for the possibility of the spread of the new coronavirus through U.S. communities that would force closures of schools and businesses. The United States has yet to see community spread of the virus that emerged in central China in late December. But health authorities are preparing medical personnel for the risk, Nancy Messonnier, an official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told reporters on a conference call. In coming weeks, if the virus begins to spread through U.S. communities, health authorities want to be ready to adopt school and business closures like those undertaken in Asian countries to contain the disease, Messonnier said.
“We’re not seeing community spread here in the United States yet, but it’s very possible, even likely, that it may eventually happen,” Messonnier said. “Our goal continues to be to slow the introduction of the virus into the U.S. This buys us more time to prepare communities for more cases and possibly sustained spread.” The CDC is taking steps to ensure frontline U.S. healthcare workers have supplies they need, she added, by working with businesses, hospitals, pharmacies and provisions manufacturers and distributors on what they can do to get ready. [..] The United States currently has 13 cases of people diagnosed with the virus within the country and 21 cases among Americans repatriated on evacuation flights from Wuhan, China, and from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, CDC said.
And how does the US prepare? By showing solidarity.
• Judge Blocks Transfer Of 50 Coronavirus Patients To Costa Mesa (CBS)
A federal judge Friday granted the city of Costa Mesa’s temporary restraining order requesting to block as many as 50 confirmed coronavirus patients from being transferred to the city. Federal court papers filed Friday state that the federal government planned to transfer the patients from Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento to the former Fairview Developmental Center on Sunday or Monday. Thursday night, Costa Mesa city officials began hearing of the plan by the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC to move between 30 and 5o patients to the state-owned land. Some of the patients are from the Diamond Princess cruise ship from which more than 300 U.S. citizens were removed Monday.
Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley said the city was surprised to learn that the Fairview Developmental Center was being considered for a group of patients who have tested positive for coronavirus, and city leaders filed an injunction to block the transfer in an effort to protect residents. “We have a lot of activity in the area,” she said. “So, it’s not the kind of area that’s isolated and that would be appropriate for quarantining people who have an infectious disease.” The largest concern was the lack of information, despite the fact that the patients were expected to arrive in a matter of days, said Costa Mesa fire chief Dan Stefano. “There has not been an information flow, and in a situation like that, for us, it creates the greatest concern,” he said.
Wise. But very late. Still, France will do better than most EU coutries if a pandemic hits; it’s more self-reliant.
• France Should Use Virus Outbreak To Reduce Reliance On China – FinMin (RT)
French finance minister Bruno Le Maire has warned that the outbreak of the coronavirus should act as a catalyst for France to begin reducing its “dependence” on China for certain goods. Meeting with business figures on Friday, Le Maire said the crisis would have a 0.1 percent impact on France’s GDP growth in 2020, assuming the outbreak is reaching its peak. While the number seems small, it is significant considering the fact that yearly GDP growth is usually in the small single digits. Le Maire announced a series of short-term measures to limit the impact of the slowdown caused by the epidemic. The ministry is also looking into the possibility of using the coronavirus as a ‘force majeure’ to allow certain French companies to free themselves from contractual obligations, Les Echos reported.
“We need to grasp this epidemic to question ourselves on our strategic dependence, in terms of supply, on certain industrial sectors,” Le Maire said, pointing to the automobile and health sectors in particular and noting that almost 80 percent of active ingredients for drugs are produced in China. Ultimately, he said, the coronavirus crisis could be an opportunity for France to “draw good from evil” by fixing vulnerabilities in supply. Le Maire’s comments indicate that reliance on Chinese goods is all well and good in normal circumstances, but this quickly changes in times of crisis. Germany also warned on Friday that the coronavirus crisis could impact its economy due to its dependence on Chinese supply chains.
Here’s where Bernie’s desperation shines through: “Unlike Donald Trump, I do not consider Vladimir Putin a good friend.” He lost me forever with that cheap innuendo.
And while we’re talking viruses, US intelligence looks very much like the immune system that turns against the body it’s supposed to protect.
Note how the Guardian says “US officials”, not “US intelligence (officials)”.
Michael Tracey: “One of the wealthiest men on Earth is plotting to steal the nomination, the Dem Party cannot even run a caucus in Iowa, corporate media can arbitrarily decide to marginalize candidates at will, but we’re supposed to panic again about Russian bots on Twitter? Ludicrous freak show”
• Bernie Sanders Told By US Officials That Russia Supports His Campaign (G.)
US officials have told Bernie Sanders that Russia is trying to help his campaign, prompting the frontrunner in the Democratic race to strongly condemn any interference. Republican Donald Trump and US lawmakers have also been informed about the Russian assistance to Sanders, said a report in the Washington Post, which cited unnamed people familiar with the matter and first broke the news. It was not clear what form the Russian assistance had taken, the paper added. Facebook said it had seen no evidence of Russian support for Sanders on its platform. However, the Vermont senator denounced the reported efforts by Moscow to interfere with the 2020 election on his behalf.
“Unlike Donald Trump, I do not consider Vladimir Putin a good friend. He is an autocratic thug who is attempting to destroy democracy and crush dissent in Russia,” Sanders said of the Russian president. “Let’s be clear, the Russians want to undermine American democracy by dividing us up and, unlike the current president, I stand firmly against their efforts, and any other foreign power that wants to interfere in our election.” Sanders also suggested some of the online vitriol frequently blamed on his supporters may be coming from Russia. “Some of the ugly stuff on the internet attributed to our campaign may well not be coming from real supporters,” Sanders said.
The news follows similar warnings from the intelligence community that Russia has also sought to boost Trump’s re-election campaign. On Friday Trump sought to play down those developments and revive old grievances in claiming that Democrats are determined to undermine the legitimacy of his presidency. Trump claimed on Twitter that Democrats were pushing a “misinformation campaign” in hopes of politically damaging him.
“..The New York Times, a figment machine so demented that it has come to resemble the proverbial crazy aunt locked in the attic.”
• Keep Throwing Spaghetti at That Wall (Kunstler)
We’re reminded this morning by The New York Times, America’s official psychotic fantasy generator, that the Russians are coming (again!) as an ad hoc arm of the committee to re-elect Mr. Trump. You have to ask yourself: Does Mr. Trump actually need their help? His opponents have been self-meddling so diligently that their party now looks like a Frankenstein creature assembled from the spare parts of Herbert Marcuse, Tupac Shakur, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, and Jame Gumb. Imagine that monster running a government. If Vlad Putin happened to express an aversion to the idea at an international cocktail party, can you really blame him? Plenty of Americans surely feel the same way. Anyway, the Times’ story never gets around to saying much about the alleged new Russian campaign besides this:
‘They have made more creative use of Facebook and other social media. Rather than impersonating Americans as they did in 2016, Russian operatives are working to get Americans to repeat disinformation, the officials said. That strategy gets around social media companies’ rules that prohibit ‘inauthentic speech.’”
Wow, that’s pretty scary! Except when you consider that Americans have done a crackerjack job of mind-fucking themselves with disinformation the past several years, coincidentally via this very The New York Times, a figment machine so demented that it has come to resemble the proverbial crazy aunt locked in the attic. The true wonder is the Times’ poverty of imagination, reviving a tattered cockamamie story that bombed abjectly the first time around. I suppose, in a culture addicted to stupid sequels, they expect Robert Mueller will be called back on-duty to sort this one out like he did so nicely before.
Actually, you could make a credible argument that the vaunted US “Intel Community” is a bigger threat to American life than anything the Russians might do on Facebook. Hence, the good news that Mr. Trump has just appointed Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, to the pivotal job as Director of National Intelligence, a position created in 2004 to supposedly coordinate the farflung activities of seventeen armies of spooks and snoops, lately notorious for feeding disinformation to The New York Times and its “Resistance” media allies.
Grenell was picked to clean up US intel. What a job to have. As Schumer said: Six ways from Sunday.
Grenell “has also been dismissive of the threat of Russia’s meddling in the US…
Let’s get that blasphemist!
• Intelligence Community Feels Impact Of Trump’s Diplomatic ‘Disruptor’ (CNN)
Richard Grenell, the newly installed acting director of American spy agencies and loyalist to President Donald Trump, began his temporary tenure by moving aggressively to put his stamp on the intelligence community that Trump has repeatedly attacked. Grenell ousted a veteran intelligence officer on Friday who served as the number two at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, according to The New York Times, and on Thursday he brought on board a former staffer of Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican who’s a staunch Trump ally. He also asked to see the intelligence behind the classified briefing last week where lawmakers were told Russia was interfering in the 2020 election to aid Trump, the Times reported.
Present and past colleagues, as well as diplomats who have tussled with him, describe Grenell as an aggressive, intelligent and caustic operator who loves to pick a fight, air the drama on Twitter and make sure everyone in the room knows his loyalty lies first and foremost with the President. Trump’s discovery that intelligence officials had briefed the bipartisan group of lawmakers on Russia’s efforts led him to angrily jettison acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire on Wednesday and install Grenell in his place. Donald Trump Jr. suggested to CNN on Friday that Grenell’s commitment to the President was a factor in his selection and said he looks forward to having “an honest dealer” leading the intelligence community.
“All I want is honesty in these places. Whether it’s the Justice Department, whether it’s there, I just want people who aren’t partisan hacks,” Trump Jr said, adding that he believes Grenell [..] will be the same kind of disruptive force within the intelligence community that he has been diplomatically. Given Trump’s troubled relationship with the intelligence community, which he has publicly denigrated and undermined, numerous former administration officials said they are concerned that Grenell was appointed to “clean house” and purge the government of those deemed to be leakers or whistleblowers. A spokeswoman for Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, said in a Thursday statement that Grenell “has also been dismissive of the threat of Russia’s meddling in the US, a fact that is doubly concerning as Germany is one of our closest and most important allies in pushing back on Russian aggression on the world stage.”
A bit more Grenell. Because you’re going to hear a lot about him. US intel doesn’t want to be cleaned up.
• Trump’s New Intel Chief Was A Trump Critic In 2016 (Pol.)
President Donald Trump’s new acting director of National Intelligence, Richard Grenell, has for years been a vocal Trump loyalist, using his Twitter account to boost the president’s policies on everything from 5G and NATO to the Iran deal and the economy. But Grenell wasn’t always a Trump supporter: In 2016, before the New York real estate mogul became the GOP presidential nominee, Grenell called Trump “dangerous” and spoke out regularly in favor of then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich, according to deleted tweets recovered via a joint inquiry by POLITICO and the cybersecurity firm Nisos. “He’s dangerous!” read one deleted Grenell tweet from March 24, 2016, the day Trump tweeted that “NATO is obsolete and must be changed to additionally focus on terrorism as well as some of the things it is currently focused on!”
The tweets underscore a key irony of the Trump era: Some of the president’s fiercest critics during the 2016 race have since transformed into his most passionate defenders, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who warned that Trump would be an “authoritarian president”; GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, who denounced Trump as “a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot” who would destroy the Republican Party; and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who called Trump a “terrible human being” right before the 2016 election. Grenell seems to have undergone a similar evolution.
“Trump is dangerous. Wake up. He’s reckless,” he replied on another occasion to a user who had written “vote Trump.” He urged his followers to read Trump’s interview with The Washington Post editorial board, in which Trump said, “I think NATO as a concept is good, but it is not as good as it was when it first evolved … I’m not even knocking it, I’m just saying I don’t think it’s fair, we’re not treated fair.”
[..] he does appear to have atoned for his anti-Trump commentary. He began supporting Trump publicly after he became the GOP nominee, writing in June 2016 that he would support the Republican candidate over Hillary Clinton and, in August, that the election “is a choice between 5,000 conservative appointees and 5,000 liberal appointees.” He also began to mock reports that said Russia had interfered in the election to boost Trump’s candidacy, writing in December 2016: “[T]hose Russians must have demanded that Hillary not campaign in Wisconsin and Michigan, too.” And he promoted the WikiLeaks disclosures, praising news organizations that reported extensively on the hacked DNC materials and criticizing those that didn’t.
And not even Stone supporters get it right: “..WikiLeaks, the website that eventually leaked the DNC’s hacked emails”. THEY WERE NOT HACKED!
• Lady Justice Spurns Her Blinders For Trump Associates (AmG)
The claim sounded like something from Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) or Rachel Maddow or any number of Russian collusion propagandists: “He was not prosecuted for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president.” Those words, however, were not uttered on MSNBC but rather in a federal courtroom by Amy Berman Jackson, a U.S. district court judge seated in the nation’s capital, whose job is to ensure the fair administration of justice based on the rule of law. The “he” Jackson was referring to is Roger Stone, a Trump confidant; the “president,” of course, is Donald Trump.
Now, Stone wasn’t charged with covering up for the president nor did the indictment against him suggest as much. There was nothing to “cover up” as election collusion is a fantasy concocted by the Democrats and the news media. But the Obama-appointee was on a roll; facts, at that point, didn’t matter to Jackson. (In a tweet Thursday morning, Schiff echoed Jackson’s evidence-free remark, claiming Stone “did it to cover up for Trump.”) Her absurd and blatantly political accusation from the bench was just part of Jackson’s 40-minute monologue Thursday morning prior to sentencing Stone to 40 months in prison for lying to Congress, obstructing justice, and witness tampering. (The loquacious judge doesn’t like competition; she put a gag order on Stone last year that is still in effect.)
The seven charges against Stone stemmed from Robert Mueller’s investigation into nonexistent collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. The Justice Department accused Stone of thwarting a similar investigation conducted by the House Intelligence Committee, then headed by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). The case against Stone is rooted in the claim that the Russians hacked the email system of the Democratic National Committee—an intrusion, it’s important to note, that is backed up solely by an analysis conducted by CrowdStrike, a private cybersecurity firm. The politically connected company was hired to investigate the breach in the spring of 2016 by Perkins Coie, the same law firm that hired Fusion GPS to do opposition research on Trump.
The DNC refused to surrender any devices or data to the FBI, despite several requests by then-director James Comey. Stone allegedly, in no small measure due to his own boasting, was in touch with WikiLeaks, the website that eventually leaked the DNC’s hacked emails. His concealment of communications related to WikiLeaks earned Stone and his wife an early-morning FBI raid at their home in January 2019 as the CNN news cameras rolled.
Time for the candidates to murder each other.
• Twitter Suspends 70 Pro-Bloomberg Accounts Over ‘Platform Manipulation’ (R.)
Twitter Inc on Friday said it had started suspending and restricting dozens of accounts posting content promoting U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg. “We took enforcement action on about 70 accounts, which includes a combination of permanent suspensions and account challenges to verify ownership,” a Twitter spokeswoman said in a statement to Reuters. [..] Twitter said the accounts violated its platform manipulation and spam policy, which prohibits coordination among accounts to amplify or disrupt conversation by using multiple accounts. This can refer to creating several accounts to post duplicative content but also includes “coordinating with or compensating others to engage in artificial engagement or amplification, even if the people involved use only one account.”
The billionaire candidate’s campaign, which has been pouring unparalleled amounts of money into an online advertising campaign, is also hiring hundreds of digital organizers to support the candidate, including by pushing content to their own social media channels. The Wall Street Journal reported that these organizers in California receive $2,500 a month to promote Bloomberg’s candidacy through actions such as posting on social media to their own networks. This month, a paid partnership between the former New York mayor’s campaign and popular Instagram meme accounts pushed Facebook Inc to announce it was allowing U.S.-based political candidates to run branded or sponsored content on its social networking platforms.
Gloria Allred had this bus drive past Buckingham Palace.
If you read us, please support us. It’s the only way the Automatic Earth can survive. Donate on Paypal and Patreon.