Wednesday's health stories

Obama: Keep social distancing for the sake of "our medical heroes"

Obama at an Obama Foundation event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, December 2019. Photo: Zahim Mohd/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama on Wednesday called for Americans to stay at home and maintain social distancing for the sake of doctors, nurses and medical staff treating coronavirus patients across the country.

Why it matters: President Trump said at a Fox News town hall Tuesday that he would "love" to have the country "opened up, and just raring to go" by Easter, or April 12, despite warnings from public health officials that easing social distancing restrictions too soon could cause the number of coronavirus cases to skyrocket.

Tony Awards postponed indefinitely due to coronavirus

Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

The 74th annual Tony Awards, slated to take place June 7 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, have been postponed until further notice due to the novel coronavirus, the production team said Wednesday.

The big picture: Earlier this month, Broadway shows were canceled along with other sports and entertainment events to limit close social interactions. New York currently has roughly 50% of the United States' COVID-19 cases.

Go deeper: The United States keeps underestimating the coronavirus

What existential risk can teach us about the coronavirus pandemic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Humans face unprecedented peril from new technologies and from our own actions, according to a new book by Toby Ord. By Ord's reckoning, humanity has a 1-in-6 chance of suffering an existential catastrophe this century.

Why it matters: The sheer havoc COVID-19 has caused to our globally connected economy and our clear failure to prepare for such a low-probability but high-consequence threat doesn't bode well for a future where existential risk will intensify.

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - Health

405,000 in U.K. volunteer to join coronavirus fight in 24 hours

Johnson at the podium. Photo: Ian Vogler-WPA Pool/Getty Images

In just 24 hours, 405,000 people volunteered to help the U.K.’s National Health Service cope with the country's fast-growing coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Wednesday.

Driving the news: Johnson said the government had hoped 250,000 people would sign up “over a few days," and was amazed that so many "answered the call." The volunteers will be asked to deliver medicine to patients, bring patients home from the hospital, and make phone calls to check on people who have the virus but are remaining at home.

Go deeper: The latest coronavirus news

Keep ReadingArrowMar 25, 2020 - World

Cuomo projects apex of coronavirus hospitalizations will be in 21 days

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo shared projections on Wednesday that suggest the state can expect to reach its "apex" for novel coronavirus hospitalizations in 21 days.

Why it matters: The number of cases in New York is expected to continue surging for weeks, even as President Trump suggests that parts of the country should lift social distancing restrictions by Easter — 18 days away.

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - Health

Cuomo: 6,000 mental health professionals providing free services

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference Wednesday that 6,175 mental health professionals have volunteered to help people cope with the emotional stress from the coronavirus pandemic through free online services.

Why it matters: Nine in 10 Americans are concerned about the coronavirus and half are worried about their jobs and ability to pay the bills, according to the latest Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index. 43% of Americans surveyed said their emotional well-being has declined in the past week.

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - Health

Podcast: Manufacturing our way out of crisis

New York says it's short more than 20,000 ventilators, as hospitals across the country are in need of more face masks and surgical gowns, and we all could use more hand sanitizer. Dan and Axios' Joann Muller dig into what auto companies and other manufacturers are doing to address supply shortages.

Go deeper: U.S. manufacturing vs. the coronavirus

What U.S. companies can learn from Chinese businesses that weathered the coronavirus

Photo: Xinhua News Agency / Contributor

American companies can learn from the experience of Chinese companies that stayed afloat during the months-long shutdowns as China fought the coronavirus, Boston Consulting Group’s chief economist Philipp Carlsson-Szlezak told me in an interview.

What they're saying: CEOs should lead the response themselves. "You have to really be in the moment. This is moving so fast," said Carlsson-Szlezak.

Oil demand could plummet 20% due to coronavirus fallout

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Analysts and oil industry officials are racing to keep up with how much oil consumption is falling as more countries and regions impose restrictions.

What's new: This morning Russell Hardy, CEO of oil trading giant Vitol, said he sees demand loss peaking at 15 million–20 million barrels day over the next few weeks. That's in the context of a roughly 100 million barrel per day market.

Aetna waives cost-sharing for coronavirus hospitalizations

A hospitalized coronavirus patient in Belgium. Photo: Vincent Duterne/Photo News via Getty Images

Aetna is waiving all copays and other out-of-pocket costs for people who end up hospitalized from the new coronavirus, the first major health insurer to do so since senators called for action last week.

Between the lines: This policy doesn't necessarily apply equally, and a lot depends on what employers do. Roughly 14.1 million people have Aetna insurance through a "self-insured" employer, and those employers can "opt-out of this option at their discretion," an Aetna spokesperson said.

Equinor is the latest oil giant to cut back amid coronavirus price decline

Photo: CARINA JOHANSEN/NTB Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images

Equinor is the latest oil-and-gas giant to announce it will cut spending in response to coronavirus and the steep decline in oil prices.

Driving the news: The Norway-based multinational said Wednesday morning that its planned 2020 capital spending will now be around $8.5 billion this year, down from $10 billion to $11 billion.

Americans expect to spend stimulus money

Reproduced from CivicScience survey; Note: ±3 percentage point margin of error; Chart: Axios Visuals

The majority of respondents to the latest CivicScience poll, provided first to Axios, say they would spend a government stimulus payment on bills, necessities and treats, rather than saving or investing the money.

Why it matters: That is a plus for the economy, which is built on consumers spending, not saving, their money.

Where tech firms are getting the masks they're donating

Photo: Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images

U.S. tech firms are donating big supplies of N95 masks, raising questions about why they have them in the first place. It largely comes down to stockpiling for California’s wildfires.

Why it matters: Health care professionals need all the masks they can get their hands on (far more than that, really).

Why the U.S. won't deploy high-tech coronavirus trackers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Governments around the world have turned to high-tech solutions like smartphone tracking and Bluetooth bracelets to slow the novel coronavirus' spread. For both practical and cultural reasons, however, the U.S. is unlikely to try such methods.

The big picture: The U.S. plainly needs more tools for slowing the spread of COVID-19. But a lack of testing supplies, the absence of nationwide strategies and policies, an individualistic culture, and concerns over civil liberties all stand in the way of adopting these techniques.

New York ER doctor: "Soon, our hospitals are gonna be overwhelmed" by coronavirus

Dr. Craig Spencer, the director of global health in emergency medicine at New York's Columbia University, said Wednesday on NBC's "Today" that hospitals in the city will soon be "overwhelmed" by the coronavirus outbreak.

What it matters: Spencer, who contracted and survived Ebola in 2014 after treating patients in Guinea, said that it's now "hard to find one or two patients that are not coronavirus" in the emergency room, marking an "absolutely staggering" increase from just last week.

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - Health

Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns: Mom is in a coma after having coronavirus symptoms

Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns revealed in an emotional video late last night that his mother, Jacqueline Cruz, is in a medically induced coma from what his family believes is COVID-19.

The big picture: Towns, who was born and raised in New Jersey, learned last week that both his parents weren't feeling well. After a trip to the hospital, his father was released and told to self-quarantine, but his mother started "deteriorating."

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - Sports

Coronavirus layoffs could cost startup employees their equity

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Silicon Valley may end up with large numbers of abandoned employee equity, as startups cut jobs amid the coronavirus-caused economic uncertainty.

Why it matters: Startup employees typically have just 90 days from the end of employment to either exercise their stock options, for which they must pay cash, or to let them go.

Investors remain wary despite Dow's historic single-day gain

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Dow rose more than 11% to clock its largest single-day gain since 1933 on Tuesday, but few are confident the market is set for a sustained rebound. Experts are urging tempered enthusiasm with U.S. and global equities on pace for a rare second day of gains.

What they're saying: "You’re going to see movement in the market, extremes in both directions, that have nothing to do with any of the headlines necessarily, but just the nature of the beast at this stage in the bear market," Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab, tells Axios.

Coronavirus fears drive up orange juice prices

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

While global stock prices have been battered, the coronavirus outbreak has been a major boon for orange juice futures, which have surged, rising by more than 6% on Tuesday and banking a fourth straight session in the green.

Why it matters: Thanks to a meteoric rise over the past week, orange juice has become one of the world's top performing assets so far this year.

Economists say Trump's coronavirus reopening plan is dead wrong

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's proposal to get business around the country back open by Easter Sunday, April 12, will do more harm to the economy if the coronavirus outbreak has not been contained, economists say.

Why it matters: Such a plan would sow uncertainty in markets and among customers and business owners and make the recession longer and harsher.

Prince Charles tests positive for coronavirus

Photo: Tim P. Whitby - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prince Charles, 71, has tested positive for the coronavirus and is experiencing "mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health," a royal spokesperson announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: The spokesperson also said that "it is not possible to ascertain" from whom the prince caught the virus, given the number of public events in which he took part recently — which could become a problem for other leaders across the globe.

Keep ReadingArrowMar 25, 2020 - World

The fight for New York

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

New York's fight against the novel coronavirus is also the nation's fight, as the state — and the city in particular — emerges with "astronomical numbers" of cases, to quote Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Why it matters: The Empire State has 5% of the world's COVID-19 cases and about 50% of the nation's. Its success — or failure — in fighting the virus, safeguarding citizens and treating the afflicted will tell us a lot about what can succeed in the rest of the U.S.

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - Health

SARS made Hong Kong and Singapore ready for coronavirus

A teacher in Hong Kong shows students hand hygiene during the SARS outbreak in 2003. Photo: Tommy Cheng/AFP via Getty Images

Despite their proximity to China, Hong Kong and Singapore have managed to keep COVID-19 infections and death extraordinarily low.

Why it matters: As coronavirus cases surge in parts of the U.S., it's natural to look at the examples of cities that have handled the disease better. But the single most important factor may be something the U.S. can't replicate: the experience of the SARS outbreak in 2003.

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - Health

Over 100 drugs are in testing in the race to treat coronavirus

Researchers at Copenhagen University in Denmakr work on a potential coronavirus vaccine. Photo: Thibault Savary/AFP/Getty Images

Scientists around the world have started dozens of clinical trials, on more than 100 drugs, in the hunt to find a product that could attack the new coronavirus. More data will be coming soon.

The big picture: Expectations need to be tempered. A vaccine is likely a long way off, and failures are inevitable. But some experimental treatments, while they still require more research, are showing promise.

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - Health

We keep underestimating the coronavirus

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The United States keeps reacting too late to the coronavirus, prolonging its economic pain and multiplying its toll on Americans’ health.

Why it matters: The spread and impact of the coronavirus may be unfathomable, but it's not unpredictable. And yet the U.S. has failed to respond accordingly over and over again.

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - Health

Report: DOJ memo advises on "terrorism-related statutes" in coronavirus cases

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen during a press conference at the Justice Department. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen advised law enforcement officials in a memorandum Tuesday they may use "terrorism-related statutes" in cases involving "the purposeful exposure and infection of others with COVID-19," per Politico and the Washington Post.

"Because coronavirus appears to meet the statutory definition of a 'biological agent,' under federal law such acts potentially could implicate the Nation’s terrorism-related statutes."
— Excerpt from Rosen's memo, per WashPost
Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - Health

Critically ill coronavirus patients can now be treated with survivors' blood

Blood and plasma samples used for the evaluation swabs for coronavirus research in Italy. Photo: Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday new emergency protocols allowing allowing the plasma of those who've recovered from the novel coronavirus to treat patients who are critically ill with COVID-19.

Why it matters: The number of coronavirus infections in the U.S. had risen to almost 54,900 and the death toll to 783 by Tuesday night. Per the FDA, it is possible that this treatment, convalescent plasma, "contains antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) might be effective against the infection."

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - Health

CDC to evaluate death of California teen who tested positive for coronavirus

Beds in a soon-to-be-opened emergency shelter for the homeless in Los Angeles, March 23. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Los Angeles County health department said on Tuesday "there may be an alternate explanation" for the death of a California teenager whose "early tests indicated a positive result for COVID-19."

Why it matters: The fatality rate for the novel coronavirus in the U.S. is highest among those over 85, the CDC found in a report issued last week — and no deaths among people under 19 years of age were reported in the U.S. as of March 18. The CDC will evaluate the case of the teenagers' death in Los Angeles County.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Mar 25, 2020 - Health

New York to free 300 nonviolent Rikers Island inmates over coronavirus

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio during a press conference on the coronavirus. Photo: EuropaNewswire/Gado/Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference Tuesday that he plans to release from Rikers Island some 300 nonviolent inmates who are over 70 years old as a measure against the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The big picture: There's been an outbreak on Rikers and a New York City Department of Correction officer stationed there died last week — one of 13 deaths related to COVID-19 in the city, which has at least 14,000 cases. Those imprisoned for domestic violence or sexual assault offenses won't be freed. To meet release requirements, prisoners must have at least five pre-existing health conditions and less than a year to serve. "We want to identify anyone in those categories and get them released immediately," de Blasio said. 75 inmates have been released already.