UK's Intertek temporarily shuts Hong Kong garment office over coronavirus case

British product quality testing firm Intertek Group Plc said on Sunday it had temporarily shut its Hong Kong Garment Centre in Kowloon from Feb. 11 for two weeks after an employee contracted the new coronavirus.
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China Hits Back at Report That It Hid Coronavirus Numbers
China rejected the American intelligence community’s conclusion that Beijing concealed the extent of the coronavirus epidemic, and accused the U.S. of seeking to shift the blame for its own handling of the outbreak. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Thursday defended as “open and transparent” China’s response to the virus first identified in December in…
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Reopening the Economy Is Pointless When Cities Are Under Siege
President Donald Trump’s promise to begin reopening the economy in the coming weeks faces an immovable obstacle: The big cities that drive America’s economic growth and innovation are the same places straining under the heaviest burden of the coronavirus outbreak.The counties confronting the largest number of cases are primarily large urban centers that account for a disproportionate share of America’s gross domestic product and jobs, according to a new analysis conducted for The Atlantic by the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. As of Tuesday morning, the 50 counties with the most cases accounted for more than one-third of the nation’s economic output and nearly one-third of its jobs, Brookings found.That dynamic underscores the implausibility of Trump’s repeated claim that jobs and growth will come back “very quickly” once the worst of the outbreak passes. So long as these regions are largely sidelined, the national economy will remain mostly stalled too, no matter what happens in smaller places now facing less-urgent threats.“The U.S. recovery is dependent on the recovery of these places,” Mark Muro, the MPP’s research director, told me flatly. “If we want to have a discussion about when to restart the nation’s economy, we better check in with the nation’s major economic hubs … because they are literally, at this point, the most paralyzed, contending with the greatest number of life-and-death cases and the greatest stress on their core systems, starting with public health.”In interviews with me this week, the mayors of several of those big cities told me that it will take much longer than a few weeks to restart their economy—and that even when economic activity resumes, the process will be gradual and halting.In other words, they counsel, Americans shouldn’t expect the equivalent of a V-E or V-J Day when the virus is vanquished and life goes back to normal, as if turning on a light switch. Instead, the mayors envision something more like a dimmer switch that gradually grows brighter.[Read: How the coronavirus became an American catastrophe]Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told me that he believes the city’s shelter-in-place order will need to remain in force at least through mid-May, two months after he issued it. “Easily, the worst thing you can do is kind of crush people’s hopes by setting up early expectations [of lifting restrictions], when we are going to be in this for a long haul,” he said. “The best thing” people can do is understand that the outbreak “won’t come in one fell swoop and one wave—and prepare for that.” That means that any easing of restrictions on economic and social activity later this year will be gradual, Garcetti said.Or as Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson put it: “No one can be sure, but I have a hard time imagining that there will be a day when everything goes back to normal: just one day everyone is sheltering in place, businesses are closed; the next day, it’s all over.” His city is operating under strict shelter-at-home regulations. “What I can more easily envision is a gradual unwinding of the most restrictive emergency orders or regulations and a ratcheting back to normal.”And even that gradual process, Johnson told me, is unlikely to start as soon as the president hopes.“I’m not certain by any stretch that we will be out of the woods by April 30,” he said. “I think that’s for public-health experts to prognosticate about, and it’s going to be up to the virus to determine when we are out of that.”Two intersecting trends explain why these large metropolitan centers are positioned to play such a pivotal role in the pace and extent of any economic recovery from the outbreak.One is long term: As the nation transitions deeper into an information-based economy, skilled workers, venture-capital investment, scientific research, and new-business formation are all concentrating more heavily in the nation’s biggest urban areas. Those regions include many cities, from Seattle to New York, that appeared to face terminal decline during the final decades of the 20th century. As Muro and his colleagues have repeatedly documented, those areas now account for a growing share of the nation’s total economic output and jobs.“Sure, there are important [economic] clusters everywhere,” Muro said. “But ultimately, if we’ve learned one thing in this decade,” it’s that the American economy is now powered by “the intense concentration of advanced economic activity” in the biggest cities, “and the multiplying effect of that concentration” on productivity.The other trend is near term: The coronavirus outbreak is most intense in those same urban centers. While epidemiologists are somewhat divided on whether the virus will reach heavily into small-town and rural areas, Deborah Birx, the administrator’s outbreak coordinator, said on Meet the Press this week that “every metro area should assume that they could have an outbreak equivalent to New York.”To understand the effect of these intersecting dynamics, Brookings, at The Atlantic’s request, analyzed the economic impact of the hardest-hit counties. It tracked the incidence of disease by county as of Tuesday morning, according to a database updated several times daily by The New York Times. Then, Brookings used federal Bureau of Economic Analysis data to calculate counties’ contribution to the nation’s total economic output and job pool. The results dramatically underscore how heavily the burden of disease has fallen on the big communities that drive America’s economy.[Read: Red and blue America aren’t experiencing the same pandemic]While there are about 3,100 counties in America, the 15 counties buckling under the largest number of coronavirus cases account for just over 16 percent of the nation’s economic output, and nearly 13 percent of its jobs, or nearly 26 million jobs in all, Brookings found. That list includes New York City and the surrounding suburban counties of Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk in New York State; Bergen in New Jersey; and Fairfield in Connecticut, as well as the counties centered on Chicago, Detroit, Seattle, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Miami. These counties alone generate $3.3 trillion of the nation’s $20 trillion economic output.The impact grows from there. The 50 counties with the most cases account for 36 percent of the nation’s total output and 30 percent of its jobs—some 60 million positions. That list brings in the counties centered on other major cities—including Boston, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco, and San Diego—as well as Macomb and Oakland Counties, two suburbs of Detroit, and Santa Clara County, the heart of Silicon Valley.The 100 counties facing the most cases generate 51 percent of the nation’s total output and 44 percent of all its jobs—more than 88 million. That longer list includes Washington, D.C., and the counties centered on St. Louis; Salt Lake City; Charlotte, North Carolina; Hartford, Connecticut; and Columbus, Ohio, as well as the suburbs of major cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.The distribution of the caseload also helps explain the continuing political divergence around the outbreak. The Brookings analysis found that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won more than three-fifths of the vote in the 100 counties facing the most cases. (Those 100 counties accounted for more than three-fourths of all U.S. cases as of Tuesday morning.) That illuminates the continuing partisan divide: Though Americans in all political camps have displayed increasing concern about the coronavirus in public polling, in surveys released over the past few days, self-identified Republicans were still much more likely than Democrats to say that Americans are overreacting to the virus, and less likely to say that it has changed their life in a major way.One irony, as Muro and others have noted, is that many of the same traits that have elevated these cities to the very top of the country’s economic ladder have increased their exposure to the virus. The highest-flying cities are almost universally among the nation’s most globally connected—the most likely not only to receive foreign visitors but to have residents who travel internationally. “Everything that makes them powerful and irreplaceable also exposes them to the vicissitudes of a globally connected economy where viruses can be both technological and human,” Muro said.For the mayors I spoke with, the road to restarting economic activity is murky. While Trump keeps identifying dates for possible restarts—first Easter, now April 30—they uniformly resist definitive proclamations, arguing that the pace of reopening will depend on the course of the outbreak. “The truth is we just don’t know … and we should be okay with telling the public that,” Johnson said.Any restart will inevitably vary industry by industry, several of the mayors told me. Garcetti is optimistic that the entertainment industry, for one, may resume activity sooner than most others. “I see them as a place that has the resources, the family-like, club-like [dynamic] that people know who they are working with [that] they may have the ability to get back on their feet faster than others,” he said.Garcetti is less confident that tourism, another key industry for L.A., will recover quickly even after the restrictions are lifted—which he worries will mean continued hardship for the many low-paid workers in that sector. In Miami, also heavily dependent on tourism, Mayor Francis Suarez shares those concerns. But if anything, he told me, he’s facing pressure from workers in the tourism industry to tighten restrictions.“A lot of employees are calling me complaining that they are being forced to go to work and being exposed to health risks,” he said. “It’s a little counterintuitive: You would think that people who live paycheck to paycheck would be desperate to get back to work, and what I’m seeing is exactly the opposite.”One potential source of protection for some cities is that a significant portion of their workers are white-collar professionals who are working remotely and still receiving paychecks that generate tax receipts. That’s the case in Columbus, a growing center of finance, education, and medicine. There, retail, manufacturing, and logistics are disrupted, “but many of our largest employers have folks working,” Mayor Andrew Ginther told me. “They are working remotely and are continuing to pay income-tax revenues.”[Read: What you need to know about the coronavirus]But overall, all of the mayors I spoke with are preparing for a lengthy siege that may include a subsequent wave (or waves) of disease later this year. “The last thing we ought to do right now is to take our foot off the gas in terms of stay-at-home orders,” Ginther said.The mayors also said they are relying heavily on local public-health and hospital officials to make decisions in the absence of stronger guidance from the federal government. Garcetti seemed to speak for all of them when he told me, “To me, it’s a very lonely place,” especially when deciding “when we turn the spigot on and how we do that.”One of the toughest decisions looming for local leaders will be when to permit the resumption of the large-scale sporting events that contribute so much to both the economy and the identity of their city. The coronavirus has already forced the suspension of professional basketball and hockey, and a delay in starting Major League Baseball. None of the mayors I spoke with said they could commit, at this point, to allowing even college and professional football games to go on in the stadiums within their jurisdictions. Those seasons are due to begin in late summer.Johnson offered an “educated guess” that bans on major sporting events will be “one of the last restrictions to go … Those seem to be the most likely way you could undo what good you’ve done—allowing people to go back into a confined space with 50,000 people in it.”Garcetti was even more dubious that Los Angeles would host baseball or football games this fall unless somehow scientists develop either a vaccine or a foolproof testing system by then. “My strong sense is that we will see a second spike of this in October, November, December … And if that’s the scenario, I can’t imagine that public-health professionals are going to say, ‘Let’s put tens of thousands of people back together in a stadium,’” Garcetti said.Trump would likely view starting the National Football League schedule on time this fall as a powerful symbol of the country returning to normalcy just a few weeks before the election. And the many political conservatives among the league’s owners would likely be inclined to support him, as one former league executive—who talked to me on the condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly—told me this week. But depending on the outbreak’s course, that could steer the NFL into direct confrontation with the mostly Democratic leaders in the jurisdictions where their stadiums are located.That potential collision marks just one of the many ways in which the nation’s economic (and even spiritual) recovery will be determined above all by what happens in the big cities now bracing for the most furious onslaught of the disease.
The Coronavirus’s Unique Threat to the South
Editor’s Note: The Atlantic is making vital coverage of the coronavirus available to all readers. Find the collection here. In a matter of weeks, the coronavirus has gone from a novel, distant threat to an enemy besieging cities and towns across the world. The burden of COVID-19 and the economic upheaval wrought by the measures to contain it feel epochal. Humanity now has a common foe, and we will grow increasingly familiar with its face.Yet plenty of this virus’s aspects remain unknown. The developing wisdom—earned the hard way in Wuhan, Washington, and Italy—has been that older people and sicker people are substantially more likely to suffer severe illness or die from COVID-19 than their younger, healthier counterparts. Older people are much more likely than young people to have lung disease, kidney disease, hypertension, or heart disease, and those conditions are more likely to transform a coronavirus infection into something nastier. But what happens when these assumptions don’t hold up, and the young people battling the pandemic share the same risks?The world is about to find out. So far, about one in 10 deaths in the United States from COVID-19 has occurred in the four-state arc of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, according to data assembled by the COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer collaboration incubated at The Atlantic. New Orleans is on pace to become the next global epicenter of the pandemic. The virus has a foothold in southwestern Georgia, and threatens to overwhelm hospitals in the Atlanta metropolitan area. The coronavirus is advancing quickly across the American South. And in the American South, significant numbers of younger people are battling health conditions that make coronavirus outbreaks more perilous.Read: [The interminable body count]The numbers emerging seem to indicate that more young people in the South are dying from COVID-19. Although the majority of coronavirus-related deaths in Louisiana are still among victims over 70 years old, 43 percent of all reported deaths have been people under 70. In Georgia, people under 70 make up 49 percent of reported deaths. By comparison, people under 70 account for only 20 percent of deaths in Colorado. “Under 70” is a broad category, not really useful for understanding what’s going on. But digging deeper reveals more concerning numbers. In Louisiana, people from the ages of 40 to 59 account for 22 percent of all deaths. The same age range in Georgia accounts for 17 percent of all deaths. By comparison, the same age group accounts for only about 10 percent of all deaths in Colorado, and 6 percent of all deaths in Washington State. These statistics suggest that middle-aged and working-age adults in the two southern states are at much greater risk than their counterparts elsewhere; for some reason, they are more likely to die from COVID-19.All data in this stage of the pandemic are provisional and incomplete, and all conclusions are subject to change. But a review of the international evidence shows that, as far as we know, the outbreaks currently expanding in the American South are unique—and mainly because of how many people in their working prime are dying. Spain’s official accounting of the pandemic last week showed that deaths among people under 70 years old make up only about 12 percent of total deaths in the country. Case-fatality rates around the world are notoriously tricky because they are based in part on the extent of testing, but a recent study of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, found a case-fatality rate of 0.5 percent among adults from the ages of 30 to 59. The current estimate of fatality rates in the same age range in Louisiana is about four times that.Read: [The official coronavirus numbers are wrong, and everyone knows it.][A recent analysis] from the Kaiser Family Foundation might shed some light on what’s going on here. The paper, drawing on the CDC guidelines, identifies people who may be at risk of serious complications from COVID-19. Kaiser’s at-risk group includes all people over 60 years old and all adults younger than 60 who also have heart disease, cancer, lung disease, or diabetes. In each state, older people are the majority of the people considered to be at risk of complications. But the Deep South and mid-South form a solid bloc of states where younger adults are much more at risk. In Arkansas, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi, relatively young people make up over a quarter of the vulnerable population. Compare that with the coronavirus’s beachhead in Washington State, where younger adults make up only about 19 percent of the risk group.Tricia Neuman, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, says this analysis points to the underlying issues that might complicate or worsen the pandemic in the South. “Due to high rates of conditions like lung disease and heart disease and obesity, the people living in these states are at risk if they get the virus,” Neuman told me. These aren’t “people who are sick, but these are people who have underlying comorbidities that put them at higher risk of serious illness if they get infected.”The KFF analysis doesn’t include potential complications from hypertension—which is also suspected to be driving coronavirus-linked hospitalizations—but the data are predictable on that front. If you define Oklahoma as part of the South, southern states fill out the entirety of the top ten states in percentage of population diagnosed with hypertension by a doctor. Southerners are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases than other Americans—even as Americans are more likely to suffer from chronic disease than citizens of other countries with comparable wealth. According to Neuman, these estimates don’t include people with cancer or who are immunocompromised -- groups that are also at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19. And cancer mortality rates are highest in southern states.These differences are not innate to southerners; they are the result of policy. Health disparities tend to track both race and poverty, and the states in the old domain of Jim Crow have pursued policies that ensure those disparities endure. The South is the poorest region in the country. The poor, black, Latino, or rural residents who make up large shares of southern populations tend to lack access to high-quality doctors and care. According to the State Health Access Data Assistance Center, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana all spend less than $25 per person on public health a year, compared to $84 per person in New York. Nine of the 14 states that have refused to expand Medicaid to poor residents under the Affordable Care Act are in the South. And many of those states are led by Republican leaders who have imitated President Donald Trump’s dallying and flip-flopping, and now find themselves flat-footed.The slow response from those governors will be even more ruinous in a region with so many challenges. Chronic disease and the apparent increased risk for younger people from COVID-19 are only part of the story in the South. Other factors could complicate its pandemic response. Advocates have drawn attention to the extreme vulnerability of people in prison to the coronavirus—and the South incarcerates a larger proportion of its population than anywhere else in the United States. A federal prison in Louisiana has already seen a spike in COVID-19 cases this week. Also, a global fear in this pandemic is that it will sicken health professionals and doctors, and leave them unable to contend with waves of hospitalizations. Southern states have some of the lowest ratios of active physicians to patients in the country.In all, the South seems likely to be a new kind of battleground, one in which distancing and isolation are going to be especially important in stopping the virus. Centuries of policy gave the pandemic a head start—and younger targets—in the South. Now there are mere days to change course.
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Today on Fox News: April 2, 2020
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