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Fear Spreads Easily. Gives the Wuhan Coronavirus Economic Impact

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New York Times

by Ilan Noy for The Conversation

One way to count the cost of the Wuhan coronavirus is by how many people catch it, and then how many die. Another is the direct financial costs of public health measures to treat those infected and contain its spread.

Yet another is the wider economic cost. But how to calculate this?

Some suggest a negligible impact on the global economy if the death toll is less or similar to the SARS outbreak in 2002-03.

But the economic impact is not directly tied to the number of people who get sick (morbidity) or die (mortality). It almost wholly depends on the indirect effects of the decisions that many millions of individuals make to minimise their chance of catching the virus, and the decision of governments on how to react to the threat.

This means the Wuhan outbreak could directly affect relatively few people, compared to past pandemics, yet still pack an intense punch in a more interconnected global economy.

Learning from SARS

We can draw lessons from the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) experience, the first epidemic of the 21st century.

SARS was another coronavirus. As the Wuhan virus emerged in late December from an animal market, SARS originated from animal markets in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong in November 2002.

Zoonotic epidemics – diseases emerging from animal hosts – are not new. But they are becoming more common with closer proximity between wild animals, domesticated animals and people; and they spread more rapidly due to increased movements of people within and between countries. Their economic risk is also likely to increase.

SARS spread to infect individuals across 26 countries in a matter of weeks. Fortunately it was then contained relatively rapidly. Ultimately about 8,500 people caught it. The mortality rate was about 11% with fewer than a thousand deaths.

Civet cats in an animal market in Guangzhou in January 2004. SARS is thought to have been transferred from bats to civet cats and then to humans. Paul Hilton/EPA

The SARS outbreak was, of course, devastating to its victims and their families. But its public-health impacts were relatively limited and short-lived. It nonetheless had significant economic impacts. Though fewer than 10,000 people were directly infected, tens of millions of individuals changed their behaviour out of fear of catching the virus.

Overestimating risks

These behavioural changes were partly driven by government directives, but more importantly by personal judgments about risks.

Behavioural studies suggest individuals typically overestimate the risks that are memorable, vivid or generate fear, while underestimating more common risks. Thus shark attacks are feared more than traffic accidents.

In a survey of 705 people in Hong Kong at the height of the SARS epidemic, 23% of respondents feared they were likely to become infected with SARS. The actual infection rate was only 0.0026%. In the US, where 29 people were infected and no one died, 16% of survey respondents felt they or their family were likely to get infected with SARS.

Such fears led to observed economic effects. Disproportionately affected were leisure venues (restaurants, cinemas, bars and clubs) and businesses associated with domestic and international tourism.

Evening mass at a Catholic church in Hong Kong on Saturday, May 10 2003. David G. McIntyre/EPA

The economies of China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan were hardest hit. At the height of the epidemic, international visitor arrivals fell dramatically in these four countries. According to World Bank research, GDP losses to these countries amounted to US$13 billion

In Beijing, the losses to the tourism sector were estimated to be 300 times the direct cost of medical treatment for SARS in the city.

Panic is easy to spread

A complete tally of the cost of SARS has never been undertaken, but what we do know about the SARS experience is most likely a good guide to what the costs of the Wuhan outbreak might be. It will be the reactions of governments and individuals to the perceived threat of the virus, and not the virus itself, that will have the biggest economic costs.

The Chinese government has imposed a mandatory curfew on more than 30 million people. It’s possible hundreds of millions more are changing their plans willingly or because they are being instructed to do so.

Examples include Hong Kong and other countries now hesitating to allow in Chinese tourists, and citizens of other nations being advised to avoid travelling to China. The US Centers for Disease Control, for example, has recommended against all non-essential travel to China, including areas far from Wuhan.

We do not yet know enough about the virulence of this coronavirus, though the preliminary evidence suggests its mortality rate is much lower than that of SARS.

But with social media, panics can also spread more rapidly and further. All signs point to a global overreaction to this crisis, and therefore to an amplified economic impact. Even highly reputable media outlets such as The New York Times have not proven immune to sensationalism, promoting stories with dramatic headlines such as “Alarm Grows as Markets Tumble and Death Toll Rises”.

We should all, therefore, rely as much as possible on verifiable information. Preventing the contagious spread of inaccurate and exaggerated information comes a close second to our responsibilities to prevent the spread of the virus itself.

Ilan Noy is Professor and Chair in the Economics of Disasters, Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.

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Health

County Hospitals Receive 300 iPads for Patients to See Family

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LOS ANGELES – 300 iPads have been donated to Los Angeles County hospitals to facilitate patient-family communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. The gift is through a partnership with the Annenberg Foundation, Brilliant Corners, and the Los Angeles County Center for Strategic Partnerships.

“The engagement of loved ones during hospitalization has been shown to improve clinical outcomes,” said DHS Director, Dr. Christina Ghaly. “Clinical staff identified a role for virtual visiting through technology in order to facilitate this family involvement. The generous donations by the Annenberg Foundation and MobileDemand will help support this critical element of our patients’ care.” 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, patient visitation by family and loved ones is limited at facilities in order to prevent exposure and the spread of disease. While there are some exceptions, such as the birth of a child or death of a patient, visitation is not permitted for the vast majority of patients and not allowed at all for COVID-19 patients. 

The donation provides 300 iPads to ensure patients and their families are able to connect, despite restrictions in access to the hospital. A second donation, by MobileDemand, provides rugged, protective healthcare iPad cases to protect against damage and loss. The rugged case also has an adjustable easel attached, providing effortless viewing for patients who are too weak to hold a tablet. Additionally, it frees health care staff from having to hold the device for patients.

“This is a wonderful example of how philanthropic organizations, nonprofits, government, and businesses can collaborate and meet an immediate need in our community,” said Wallis Annenberg, Chairman, President and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation. “Being able to offer an opportunity for comfort and connection to those suffering and to alleviate some of the stress from our frontline caregivers is of utmost importance.”

While social distancing has been successful in flattening the curve of the COVID-19 surge in Los Angeles County, it is anticipated that it will continue for several months. With this gift, physicians and nurses will be able to place an iPad in the room of COVID and other critically-ill patients for the duration of the admission and reduce potential exposure and use of personal protective equipment going in and out of the room. Having a stationary iPad helps relieve medical staff who would otherwise have to hold the phone for a patient or search for the person’s personal phone. It also will allow patients who do not have a personal mobile device to communicate and “visit” with their family.

The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) is the second largest municipal health system in the nation. Through its integrated system of 26 health centers and four hospitals – LAC+USC Medical Center, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center – and expanded network of community partner clinics, DHS annually provides direct care for 600,000 unique patients, employs over 22,000 staff, and has an annual budget of over $6 billion.

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Processions to Cedars Will Salute Healthcare Workers on National Nurses Day

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is putting a strain on essential workers such as first responders and healthcare workers who are on the frontlines in the effort to care for coronavirus patients so the City of West Hollywood is setting out to recognize them in a special way on May 6.

National Nurses Day is a day of recognition to celebrate and honor the contributions that nurses have made and continue to make in our communities and throughout the nation. National Nurses Day is celebrated annually on May 6, which marks the beginning of National Nurses Week, a week-long celebration to raise awareness of the value of nursing and educate the public on the role nurses play in meeting the healthcare needs of Americans. National Nurses Week concludes on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, or as she was more commonly known, “The Lady of the Lamp” and founder of modern nursing.

The West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is coordinating two motorcades to honor healthcare workers on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, which is nationally recognized as National Nurses Day. The processions will begin at 9:45 a.m. and at 7:15 p.m. on Santa Monica Boulevard at La Cienega Boulevard and the motorcades will head west and then travel southbound on N. San Vicente Boulevard passing multiple medical center locations in West Hollywood en route to a destination outside the emergency room entrance of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Gracie Allen Drive. First responders will briefly stop, exit their vehicles and applaud healthcare workers while wearing face coverings and practicing appropriate social distancing.

“Our nurses and healthcare workers are nothing short of heroes,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tempore Lindsey P. Horvath. “The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us just how critical their work is to our everyday health and safety. This National Nurses Day means so much more to all of us — the City of West Hollywood and our LA County Sheriff’s West Hollywood Station and LA County Fire Stations; the City of Beverly Hills and Beverly Hills Police and Fire; the City of Los Angeles and LAPD and LAFD; the California Highway Patrol, and more — and we will honor these heroes in a special way for the care that they provide, which often goes unseen and unrecognized, in carrying us through this crisis.”

“As the worldwide response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues, the critical importance of nurses in our society has been brought sharply into focus,” said City of West Hollywood Councilmember John Heilman. “More often than not, when a coronavirus patient ends up in a hospital, it is the nurses at the frontlines who are responsible for their care and treatment, putting themselves at risk in the process. We can’t say ‘thank you’ strongly enough.”

The City of West Hollywood encourages residents and community members to participate during this day of celebration while still adhering to LA County Safer At Home Orders and social distancing requirements. Suggested forms of participation include amplifying posts on social media channels, making yard or window signs and banners, participating in a coordinated daily applause or shout out for nurses and healthcare workers, and donating to organizations that are addressing the emerging needs of nurses and healthcare workers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) health pandemic.

According to the American Nursing Association, nursing is the nation’s largest healthcare profession, with more than four million registered nurses in the United States. Registered nurses comprise one of the largest segments of the U.S. workforce and are the primary providers of hospital patient care, delivering most of the nation’s long-term care. In nursing, where workers are on the front lines of patient interactions, women make up more than 85 percent of the workforce. This year, with the onset of coronavirus, nurses have stepped up and shown the incredible impact they have on our healthcare system. It is more important than ever that we recognize National Nurses Day and celebrate the significance of nurses every day.

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Health

Texas & California Wet Markets Show Full Extent of Vile Conditions

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Texas & California Wet Markets Show Full Extent of Vile Conditions

(TMZ) — It’s becoming more clear by the day that wet markets are NOT just a China problem — it’s an American problem too … just take a look at these latest clips from Texas and California.

TMZ has gotten a hold of even more graphic videos of two different live animal shops in TX and CA — where people pick out the animal, have it slaughtered on the spot and then sold to them right then and there — and you see the mixed-in livestock runs the gamut.

There are pigs in pens, goats and sheep hoarded together … and, of course, as we’ve seen in New York and elsewhere — chicken and rabbits cooped up in cages — all in the same area within earshot of each other, and all getting butchered.

Ya got pigs hanging from hooks out in the open, chicken beaks, feathers and guts all over the floor and in an exposed trash can — this while customers (including kids) come in and browse the freezer for whatever cuts of meat they want. It’s downright dirty and gross.

As we’ve been told by the experts, these one-stop-shop slaughterhouses/storefronts can be breeding grounds for disease — including new viruses, like COVID-19, which supposedly got started at a wet market in China.

We already know of lawmakers in Cali and New York working to get these things shut down, but it’s pretty apparent there needs to be federal legislation rolled out to address this. Can’t call the kettle black when we’re swimming in the freakin’ pot.

Tune in to TMZ on TV weekdays Monday through Friday (check syndicated/local listings)

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