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U.S. Declares Public Health Emergency Over Coronavirus

Washington (AP) — The United States on Friday declared a public health emergency because of a new virus that hit China and has spread to other nations.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also announced that President Donald Trump will temporarily bar entry to the U.S. of foreign nationals believed to be a risk of transmitting the virus. The new restrictions begin Sunday afternoon.
“The risk of infection for Americans remains low and with these and our previous actions we are working to keep the risk low,” Azar said.
Americans returning from Hubei province, the center of the outbreak, will be required to undergo 14 days of quarantine. Others returning from elsewhere in China will be allowed to self-monitor their condition for a similar period.
The U.S. will also begin funneling all flights to the U.S. from China to seven major airports where passengers can be screened for illness.
The virus has infected almost 10,000 people globally in just two months, a troublesome sign that prompted the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a global emergency. The death toll stood at 213, including 43 new fatalities, all in China.
The announcement came hours after the State Department issued a level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory, the highest grade of warning, and told Americans in China to consider departing using commercial means. “Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice,” the advisory said.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
The U.S. advised against all travel to China as the number of cases of a worrying new virus spiked more than tenfold in a week, including the highest death toll in a 24-hour period on Friday.
The virus has infected almost 10,000 people globally in just two months, a troublesome sign of its spread that prompted the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a global emergency. The death toll stood at 213, including 43 new fatalities, all in China.
The State Department’s level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory, the highest grade of warning, told Americans in China to consider departing using commercial means. “Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice,” the advisory said.
Hours later, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines announced they were suspending all flights between the U.S. and China, joining several international carriers that have stopped flying to China as the virus outbreak continues to spread.
Meanwhile, U.S. health officials issued a two-week quarantine order for the 195 Americans evacuated earlier this week from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. It was the first time a federal quarantine has been ordered since the 1960s, when one was enacted over concern about potential spread of smallpox, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
“We understand this action may seem drastic. We would rather be remembered for over-reacting than under-reacting,” the CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier said. None of the Americans being housed at a Southern California military base has shown signs of illness.
China counted 9,692 confirmed cases Friday, the vast majority in Hubei province and its provincial capital, Wuhan, where the first illnesses were detected in December.
The National Health Commission reported 171 cases have been “cured and discharged from hospital.” WHO has said most people who got the illness had milder cases, though 20% experienced severe symptoms. Symptoms include fever and cough, and in severe cases, shortness of breath and pneumonia.
China has placed more than 50 million people in the region under virtual quarantine, while foreign countries, companies and airlines have cut back severely on travel to China and quarantined those who recently passed through Wuhan. Infected people don’t show symptoms immediately and may be able to pass on the virus before they appear sick.
American Airlines said it was halting all flights starting Friday and running through March 27. Delta plans to wait until Feb. 6 to suspend China operations to help travelers in China leave the country. It said the stoppage will continue through April 30.
United Airlines announced that it will suspend flights to Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu but continue flights to Hong Kong.
Since China informed WHO about the new virus in late December, at least 23 countries have reported cases, as scientists race to understand how exactly the virus is spreading and how severe it is.
Experts say there is significant evidence the virus is spreading among people in China and WHO noted with its emergency declaration Thursday it was especially concerned that some cases abroad also involved human-to-human transmission. It defines an international emergency as an “extraordinary event” that poses a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.
“The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China but because of what is happening in other countries,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva. “Our greatest concern is the potential for this virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems which are ill-prepared to deal with it.
A declaration of a global emergency typically brings greater money and resources, but may also prompt nervous governments to restrict travel and trade to affected countries. The announcement also imposes more disease reporting requirements on countries.
On Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it was authorizing the departure of family members and all non-emergency U.S. government employees from Beijing and the consulates in the cities of Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenyang. Staff from the Wuhan consulate departed earlier this week.
The decision was made “out of an abundance of caution related to logistical disruptions stemming from restricted transportation and availability of appropriate health care,” the embassy said.
Mike Wester, a businessman in Beijing who has lived in China for 19 years, said he has no plans to leave.
“I feel safer self-quarantining myself here at home than I do risking travel,” Wester said.
He pointed to potential risks from crowds at airports and being required to remove a mask for passport and security checks.
Japan and Germany also advised against non-essential travel and Britain did as well, except for Hong Kong and Macao. Popular holiday and shopping destination Singapore barred Chinese from traveling there, becoming the first Southeast Asian nation to do so.
Tedros said WHO was not recommending limiting travel or trade to China.
“There is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade,” he said. He added that Chinese President Xi Jinping had committed to help stop the spread of the virus beyond its borders.
Although scientists expect to see limited transmission of the virus between people with close contact, like within families, the instances of spread to people who may have had less exposure to the virus is worrying.
In Japan, a tour guide and bus driver became infected after escorting two tour groups from Wuhan. In Germany, five employees of a German auto parts supplier became ill after a Chinese colleague visited, including two who had no direct contact with the woman, who showed no symptoms of the virus until her flight back to China. On Friday, Germany confirmed a sixth case, a child of one of the people already infected.
“That’s the kind of transmission chain that we don’t want to see,” said Marion Koopmans, an infectious diseases specialist at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands and a member of WHO’s emergency committee.
The new virus has now infected more people globally than were sickened during the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, a cousin of the new virus. Both are from the coronavirus family, which also includes those that can cause the common cold.

Associated Press reporters Ken Moritsugu, Joe McDonald and Sam McNeil in Beijing, Mike Stobbe and Alexandra Olson in New York, Maria Cheng in London, Jamey Keaten in Geneva, Edith Lederer at the United Nations, Elaine Ganley in Paris, Frank Jordans in Berlin and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

This story corrects the number of cases in China that have been cured and discharged to 171, not 596.

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13 Amazing Photos You Missed This Week

With the never-stopping news cycle, it’s easy to miss great images that fly under the radar. We’ve got you covered.

We’re highlighting exceptional photos from around the world for the week of Jan. 25 to 31. Check them out below. 
Above: Classmates and friends of Alyssa Altobelli launch a lantern in her memory during a vigil in Newport Beach, California, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020. Alyssa and her parents, John and Keri Altobelli, were among the nine people who were killed in the helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, including Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, 13.

Anthony Kwan via Getty Images

Residents wearing face masks photograph fireworks celebrating the Lunar New Year on Jan. 28, 2020, in Macau, China. 

John Locher/AP

People cheer as democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign rally Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, in Sioux City, Iowa.

OLI SCARFF via Getty Images

Members of the Sealed Knot, a society promoting interest in the English Civil War, stage a reenactment of the Battle of Nantwich, a battle which took place near the town in 1644, in northwest England on Jan. 25, 2020.

Eloisa Lopez / Reuters

A performer blows fire during Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in Chinatown, Binondo, Manila, Philippines, Jan. 25, 2020.


An image shows the Sun’s surface at the highest resolution ever taken, shot by the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST), the world’s largest solar telescope, on the island of Maui, Hawaii, on Jan. 29, 2020,


A polar bear dives for a piece of meat at the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden in Budapest on Jan. 30, 2020.

GABRIEL BOUYS via Getty Images

A model presents a creation from Dominnico’s Autumn and Winter 2020/2021 collection during the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Madrid on Jan. 31, 2020.

Kate Green via Getty Images

Staff lay out heads on sticks as they arrange seat placings during the EE British Academy Film Awards 2020 “Heads On Sticks” photocall at Royal Albert Hall on Jan. 30, 2020, in London, England.

Jonathon Gruenke/The Daily Press/AP

Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew falls to one knee and touches the hearse carrying Officer Katherine Thyne outside of the Newport News Police Department South Precinct during a procession Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. Officer Thyne died Thursday night after being dragged by the car of a man who was being questioned by her and another officer.

Chester Zoo/Reuters

A tiny “fingertip-sized” pygmy chameleon is seen at Chester Zoo, Chester, Britain, on Jan. 29, 2020.

Fred Lee via Getty Images

Robin Montgomery of the United States in action during the Junior Girls Doubles against Amarissa Kiara Toth of Hungary and Eva Lys of Germany on day eight of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Jan. 27, 2020, in Melbourne, Australia.

FREDERIC J. BROWN via Getty Images

The marquee at the Palladium Theater on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California, mourns the late Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna on Jan. 31, 2020.

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State Department Issues ‘Do Not Travel’ Advisory For China As Coronavirus Spreads

The State Department urged Americans to avoid all travel to China, dramatically raising its advisory to the highest level Thursday as health officials declared the spread of a new coronavirus a global emergency.
The State Department raised its travel advisory to Level 4: Do Not Travel, its strongest warning for American citizens. Other countries currently under similar warnings include Iraq, North Korea and South Sudan.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the decision came amid the ongoing spread of the new coronavirus around the globe and the World Health Organization’s decision to declare a global health emergency on Thursday.
.@StateDept is increasing the #China Travel Advisory to Level 4 – Do Not Travel. This is due to the spread of the novel #coronavirus throughout China & the @WHO determination that the outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 31, 2020

“Those currently in China should consider departing using commercial means,” the State Department said. “The Department of State has requested that all non-essential U.S. government personnel defer travel to China in light of the novel coronavirus.”
The U.S. announced its sixth case of the virus on Thursday and said that it had been spread by person-to-person contact for the first time in the country.
WHO declared the novel coronavirus an emergency after initially declining to do so last week. The declaration can help the international community craft a coordinated response to the outbreak. The designation does not carry the force of law, though, and mostly signals that the top health advisory body considers the virus a serious matter.
The body cited a surge in confirmed cases as the number of those infected topped 9,600 in China by Friday, even as the country worked to effectively quarantine about 50 million people. Officials also reported 213 deaths linked to the outbreak. The majority of those infections and all of the deaths have so far occurred in China, where the virus was first seen in the city of Wuhan.
Other cases have been reported in 22 countries and territories, including the U.S., Australia, France, Canada, Japan and South Korea.
“We must all act together now to limit further spread,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday. “Our greatest concern is for the virus to spread to other countries with weaker assistance and which are ill-prepared to deal with it.”
The U.S. has begun evacuating some Americans from Wuhan and has already flown nearly 200 people to a military base in California, mostly State Department employees and their families. Many still remain, however.

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Republicans Defend Trump Argument That Accepting Foreign Help In Elections Is OK

The argument was put forth by White House deputy counsel Patrick Philbin in response to a question posed by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) about Trump’s apparent willingness to solicit dirt about his campaign rivals from countries such as Russia and China.
“Mere information is not something that would violate the campaign finance laws,” Philbin said on Wednesday“If there is credible information ― credible information of wrongdoing by someone who is running for a public office ― it’s not campaign interference for credible information about wrongdoing to be brought to light.”
Soliciting dirt on election opponents from a foreign government is a crime.
Trump is on trial in the Senate after being impeached by the House for pressuring Ukraine’s government to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden that could benefit him in the 2020 presidential election and withholding military aid to the country until it did so. 
As Democrats blasted the Trump defense argument about foreign election interference as “shocking” and “extraordinary,” warning it would set a dangerous precedent that could even lead to a banana republic, Republicans maintained that it would be acceptable if the president had good reason to accept such information.
“I think all he was addressing is whether there was a crime and what I understood him to say is, ‘There was not,’” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters on Thursday, referring to Philbin. 
Asked if he was comfortable with the Trump argument about accepting foreign dirt in U.S. elections, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said it “all depends.”
“The president is the presidency, everybody reports to him, including the attorney general. Are you saying that the American people shouldn’t know about or we shouldn’t pursue criminal wrongdoing just because it’s overseas?” he asked, suggesting that Trump would be justified in accepting information from foreign leaders that could help him in an election.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, added that he had “no problem” with the argument offered by Trump’s lawyers.  He said that the “precedent has already been set” by former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her campaign’s involvement with the so-called Steele dossier. The dossier, a collection of memos produced by former British spy Christopher Steele that included claims about Trump’s ties to Russia, was partially paid for by the Clinton campaign.
But the dossier wasn’t compiled by a foreign government, rather by a U.S.-based opposition research firm originally hired by another Republican presidential campaign in the 2016 political cycle, as well as a conservative outlet. 
When Trump told ABC News last June that he would accept dirt on his 2020 opponent from a foreign power and might not tell the FBI that he had done so, Republicans pushed back by saying they would first call law enforcement authorities.
“That’s not the right answer,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said at the time. “A foreign government comes to you as a public official and offers to help your campaign giving you anything of value, whether it be money or information on your opponent, the right answer is no.”
Asked Wednesday about the matter, however, Graham said the argument offered by Trump’s lawyers is “absolutely correct.”
“I believe that if I asked a foreign government to announce an investigation into my opponent where there is no legitimacy, that would be a corrupt act on my part,” Graham said. Graham has maintained it is legitimate to look into Biden’s dealings with Urkaine for possible corruption.
Jim Baker, who served as general counsel to the Federal Bureau of Investigation under President Barack Obama, weighed in on Twitter with a different view:

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WHO Declares Global Health Emergency For Coronavirus As Cases Top 7,800

The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak an international public health emergency on Thursday as the number of confirmed cases topped 7,800 globally.
The majority of cases, which have resulted in at least 170 deaths, have been in China where health officials say the virus originated. Additional cases have been reported in 18 other countries, including the U.S., France, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, India and Australia.
“We must all act together now to limit further spread,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in announcing the health declaration. “Our greatest concern is for the virus to spread to other countries with weaker assistance and which are ill-prepared to deal with it.”


Nineteen countries have confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus as of Thursday, according to the World Health Organization.

Such declarations by the WHO’s Emergency Committee are made when there is “an extraordinary event” that creates a public health risk that could “potentially require a coordinated international response,” according to the WHO website. 
Tedros said Thursday that he doesn’t recommend limiting trade and movement as part of the international response to the coronavirus. He also didn’t cast any blame on China’s handling of the situation but praised that country for doing everything it can.
The Emergency Committee split twice last week about whether to declare an emergency related to the coronavirus. Each time it said that it didn’t have enough information.
The WHO announcement came the same day that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first person-to-person transmitted case in the United States, involving a patient in Chicago.
Five other cases confirmed in the U.S. as of Thursday involve people who had traveled to China themselves.


This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

In China, the number of cases in the current coronavirus outbreak has surpassed the number of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) cases during the 2003 epidemic, which sickened 8,098 people globally and killed 774. That viral respiratory illness, also caused by a coronavirus, was first reported in Asia and spread to more than two dozen countries.
The flu remains a far bigger threat to people in the U.S. today than the coronavirus. More than 15 million people in the U.S. have become ill from the flu so far this season, which began in October. Of those people, 8,200 have died and 140,000 have been hospitalized, according to the CDC.

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U.S. Reports First Case Of Coronavirus Being Spread Person-To-Person

NEW YORK (AP) — Health officials Thursday reported the first U.S. case of person-to-person spread of the new virus from China.
The man is married to the Chicago woman who got sick from the virus after she returned from a trip to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak. There have been cases reported of the infectious virus spreading to others in a household or workplace in China and elsewhere.
The new case is the sixth reported in the United States. The other five were travelers who developed the illness after returning to the U.S. from China. The latest patient had not been in China.
The Chicago woman returned from central China on Jan. 13, then last week went to a hospital with symptoms and was diagnosed with the viral illness. She and her husband, both in their 60s, are hospitalized.
Experts have said they expected additional cases, and that at least some limited spread of the disease in the United States was likely. Health officials think the new virus spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Illinois health officials said that health workers and people who have been in contact with the latest patient are being monitored for symptoms.
“We anticipated this,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University infectious diseases expert. “The kind of contact that you have in a household is very close and very prolonged. That’s the kind of circumstance where we would anticipate a virus such as this could be transmitted.”
The virus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. It is a member of the coronavirus family that’s a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past. The new virus has sickened thousands, mostly in China, and killed about 170.
An international outbreak caused by the virus first emerged last month in China. Doctors there began seeing the new virus in people who got sick after spending time at a wholesale food market in Wuhan. Officials said the virus probably initially spread from animals to people, as did SARS and MERS.
The other U.S. cases are in Arizona, Southern California and Washington state.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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I’m In China. Here’s What’s Really Happening As The Country Faces The Coronavirus.

The Wuhan coronavirus has dominated the news cycle lately around the world. My brother, Harry, and I had already planned a trip to Shenzhen, China, on Friday, Jan. 24, to visit our parents over the Lunar New Year.
We chatted with our parents about postponing the trip. They told us that it would be hard for them to take time to spend with us in the coming months and that the risk in Shenzhen seemed low. Because of that, we decided to continue with our trip, while keeping an eye on the news.
We found a China unlike anything we’ve seen before, with a fascinating mix of calm and fear. Here’s a few snippets of life on the ground.
Everything the media broadcasts or the government does centers around coronavirus.
The government in China is all-encompassing: Power is centralized in a huge bureaucracy that emanates from the national Communist Party in Beijing.
Early on, the government was criticized for its slow response to the disease. But now, its response has swung so far the other way, it’s hard to keep track of all the measures it’s taking.

Buses and trains crossing provincial lines in over half of China’s provinces have been canceled.

Movie theaters, museums and other enclosed public spaces have been ordered to be closed.

And of course, Wuhan and other cities in the province of Hubei have prevented their locals from leaving.

That last one is mind-boggling. Wuhan is a city of 11 million, and one of the 10 largest cities in China. Think of sealing Los Angeles off from the outside world. The fact that this is possible at all speaks to the strength of the state, for better or for worse.
Another really interesting manifestation of the power of government is the news. The coronavirus may be big news internationally, but in China, it’s the only news right now.
Here are some articles about the coronavirus from outside China. Most articles are factual, but somewhat sensational.

On the other hand, here’s a sample of Chinese domestic news at the top of QQ News and Today’s Headlines.

Xi Jinping gives four keys to winning the fight against the virus: This is consistently the top article across both QQ and Today’s Headlines. The four keys are “坚定信心、同舟共济、科学防治、精准施策”, which roughly translated, mean “firmly believe/have confidence in the government; cooperate; use scientific disease control methods; and apply targeted government policies.” (It sounds a lot more poetic in Chinese, I swear!) This one’s clearly a government puff piece highlighting how, thanks to “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” they’ve built a hospital in six days, dispatched thousands of doctors to Wuhan, and are coordinating scientific research.

Prevention and control of the new coronavirus is the most important thing for us right now: This article’s a detailed explanation of why the government’s taking the measures it is, and recommends everyone to 1) frequently wash hands, 2) wear a mask when going outside, 3) avoid closed and crowded public places, 4) keep indoor areas well-ventilated, and 5) maintain good hygiene when cooking and eating. Overall, fairly well-considered advice all around!

How could someone be asymptomatic after infection? Should I be afraid? See what the experts say: This article talks about how symptom presentation can vary a lot from person to person, and how there’s a lot we still don’t know — the only way to know for sure if anyone has the disease is by running a test on the genome of the virus.

Now, many of you might roll your eyes at the propagandistic tone of the first article. But the other two articles are measured, fact-based articles with good advice and just the right dose of alarm. I’d take articles Nos. 2 and 3 over the international news pieces, which come with little science or practical advice attached.
To be fair, there’s similar articles in the American press like The Atlantic’s and Ars Technica’s excellent takes, but by and large, the news focuses much more on sensationalizing the numbers without presenting them in context.
Likewise, TV news aims to strike the right balance between alarm and assurance. The nightly news in Shenzhen is a prime example. Local news sources have not only reported on the increasing case count, but have also written stories about how many recovered patients have been released. Another local news report showed the reporter walking through the wholesale markets in Shenzhen and informing viewers that food supplies are sufficient.
While China’s tight control of the media has many pitfalls, it seems uniquely well-suited for keeping an epidemic under control.
Everyone’s fearful of people traveling from Hubei.
On one of the tallest buildings in Shenzhen has been displaying projected text that reads “天佑武汉”, or “God bless Wuhan.” The nightly news shows Li Keqiang, China’s premier and second in command, rallying medical workers in Wuhan with cheers of “加油武汉” (“Keep it up, Wuhan!”).

Courtesy of Peter Xu

The Shenzhen skyline at night. The building in the center has projected text that reads “天佑武汉” (God bless Wuhan).

Unfortunately, the on-the-ground situation is very different from the unequivocal support that the above would indicate. One night, as we drove into our xiaoqu (fenced “neighborhoods” into which all housing is organized in China), we rolled down our windows for our regular temperature checks. (What? Temperature checks? Read on — I’ll say more about this below.)
“Nobody’s coming from Wuhan or Hubei, right?” the night security guard asked and we replied in the negative.
I’m not sure what would have happened if we said we were from Hubei, but chances are we’d have been turned away just as Hubei’ers have been turned away from Macau and Hong Kong.
In another incident in the same xiaoqu, our parents relayed how someone had seen a car with a Hubei plate parked there and immediately raised a ruckus on WeChat, the group messaging app ubiquitous in China. The xiaoqu staff quickly promised to investigate and report back.
What makes this unfair is that if you have a Hubei license plate, it’s possible you haven’t been to Hubei for years! But in this atmosphere of fear, if you say you’re from Hubei, you’ll be shunned wherever you are or kept a fair distance from anything or anyone. It’s extremely unfortunate that beyond just having to bear the worst of the disease, the people of Hubei and Wuhan have to live with a stigma that comes from where they’re from.
We see something similar happening in the U.S. with people who have visited China. Currently, outside Hubei, there have been 2,000 confirmed cases. Now let’s say that’s underreported by a magnitude of 10. Even 20,000 cases in a country of 1.3 billion gives you 0.001% chance that any single person has the disease. It’s not silly to take precautions, of course, but it is silly to assume every Chinese visitor or returning tourist is likely to carry the virus.
Everywhere’s deserted.
China’s a country of 1.4 billion people. But if you visited this week, you wouldn’t know it.
Even before we left San Francisco, the difference was obvious. The plane out of SFO was the emptiest we’ve seen — no more than a quarter of the seats were full. When we called United before our flight, they offered to waive the change fee if we wanted to change our dates; clearly, many others took them up on that offer. All the better for us, though! Harry and I each sprawled across a whole row of four seats to sleep.
Shenzhen itself was the same — eerily empty. We absolutely love dim sum, a Cantonese breakfast cuisine, so as soon as we got here, we headed straight to a dim sum restaurant in Ocean City, a local mall. The building looked almost abandoned. Escalators were stopped, stores shuttered, and lights dimmed.

Courtesy of Peter Xu

An empty mall where we ended up having dim sum.

It’s partly just Lunar New Year itself — most commerce stops, and most people are at their ancestral hometowns (rather than Shenzhen, a modern boomtown) spending time with family. But even then, the New Year is China’s longest public holiday, and just like Christmas in the U.S., many would usually use the chance to feast with family. As a result, the restaurant itself was open. In a space that probably fits a few hundred people and would be bustling with diners any other year, though, only 10 tables were occupied.
Later, we visited Lianhuashan, the Central Park of Shenzhen, with a hilltop plaza overlooking the city and a large field for flying kites. The field, which normally would be chock-full of families, was sparse and less than a quarter full. Roads were so free of traffic that when we asked a seafood restaurant’s staff where to park, they told us to just park on the sides of the two-lane boulevard — a clear violation of normal traffic rules. And for good reason, too! We didn’t see a single car go down that street the whole 10 minutes we were outside.

Courtesy of Peter Xu

Lianhuashan Park, which is normally bustling with visitors, when we there just a few days ago.

Everybody’s wearing face masks and aiming infrared thermometers.
We didn’t come half a world away just to stay inside all day, so we headed outside to parks and shops. And to be clear, it’s not like there’s nobody around, zombie-apocalypse, “28 Days Later”-style. There’s simply a lot fewer people than you’d expect for a city of 10 million.
For example, when we visited Lianhuashan, the park had its fair share of visitors, but almost everyone wore surgical face masks, even as they huffed and puffed up the hill. Later, when we went to Walmart, absolutely everyone was wearing masks.

Courtesy of Peter Xu

Everybody’s wearing masks by the hot pot meats aisle at Shenzhen’s Walmart.

And it’s not just one kind of mask. You can see the whole gamut, from black cloth masks, to the blue-white disposable masks, to the yellow-strapped fancy N95 particulate filter masks. Once we reached the plaza on top of the park, we found multiple local police (“bao’an”) milling about and a continuously looping message playing reminding everyone to wear face masks and leave at the slightest sign of fever.
We went to hike another small hill, Xiaonanshan, and had just made it a few steps from the entrance when the security guard for the park yelled at us to come back. He told us to put on our masks, and then walk up again past the ubiquitous cameras, just so that he wouldn’t be told off for being lax, even though objectively, a wide-open trail with few other hikers is almost as low-risk an environment as it gets.
(An aside: while masks have been shown to reduce the rate of getting the flu in some studies, the CDC does not recommend it for people without symptoms, partly because many users do not wear them consistently or correctly. Measures like frequently washing one’s hands and avoiding touching one’s eyes, nose and mouth are likely to be equally important, although they’ve been studied less.)
The other weapon of the resistance against coronavirus is the mighty infrared thermometer. Never seen one? It looks a bit like a barcode scanner, except point it at someone, and bam! You’ll know whether they’re feverish and diseased or just a regular, asymptomatic citizen.

Courtesy of Peter Xu

Harry on the receiving end of a thermometer gun at a highway toll booth.

Flippancy aside, they are effective for seeing who has a fever, but based on the latest research, the coronavirus can be present without symptoms in children and Chinese officials have stated that it can spread before symptoms show. (That being said, Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, said Wednesday that the agency doesn’t have any evidence that patients are infectious before symptoms begin to show.)
We see these thermometers at gated public areas like parks and xiaoqu, as well as anywhere where one might enter or exit cities (including at highway toll booths and the entrance to the Shenzhen ferry terminal).
Together, both temperature scanners and face masks are a form of “health theater” — while moderately effective, they’re also performative. They signal to the bureaucratic bosses and other citizens that “we’re doing our best to stop the coronavirus.”
And yet, life goes on.
Despite empty streets, face mask-wearing and thermometer-waving citizenry, and closed businesses, life goes on. Families are still enjoying Chinese New Year together at home, flying kites in the park, shopping at Walmart, and eating at McDonald’s. My parents, Harry, and I made dumplings, duck and vegetables; watched “Parasite” (an excellent movie) together at home; and chatted about our lives and how our mom’s house renovation was coming along.
This is not to minimize the effect of the coronavirus. It literally is the only news in China right now. The economic impact has been immense, with a tourist season cut short. Wuhan is bearing the worst of it, with thousands of cases, many deaths, and more likely to come.
Overall, though, I came away from my time in Shenzhen feeling reassured that China’s got the disease under control. Everywhere in China other than Wuhan, I feel like you’re safer from not just the new coronavirus, but any infectious disease, than you would be even in the U.S. thanks to the precautions being taken right now. I’d recommend against visiting China today. But if you’re already here, I’d recommend an abundance of caution. Wash your hands, wear a mask, and avoid high-risk areas. But know that you’re not walking into a zombie apocalypse (as the Express would like you to believe), and that you’re seeing China like we’ve never seen before.
Peter Xu and his brother, Harry Yu, are the co-founders of Wanderlog, a document for planning travel itineraries. They were born and raised in China until age 7, moved to Canada, and now live together in San Francisco.
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Wilbur Ross Roundly Ripped For Predicting Coronavirus Will Be Good For U.S. Jobs

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross drew widespread scorn on social media on Thursday for suggesting the spread of the deadly coronavirus in China could “help to accelerate the return of jobs” to the U.S.Ross initially responded to Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo’s speculation that the virus could cause the Chinese economy to “grind to a halt” by saying: “Every American’s heart has to go out to the victims of the coronavirus, so I don’t want to talk about a victory lap over a very unfortunate, very malignant disease.”But he then changed his tack:
But the fact is it does give businesses yet another thing to consider when they go through their review of their supply chain. On top of all the other things, you had SARS, you have the African swine (fever) virus there, now you have this. It’s another risk factor that people need to take into account. So I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America ― some to U.S., probably some to Mexico as well.
 Check out the clip here:Secretary Wilbur Ross says coronavirus will be good for [checks notes] American jobs: “I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America.”— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 30, 2020

At least 170 people have so far died from the virus outbreak in China, which originated in the city of Wuhan and has been spreading worldwide. There have been five confirmed cases in the U.S., and 195 Americans who were evacuated from China are currently being monitored at a Southern California military base.Jobs like:Coffin makersFuneral Home ManagersGravediggersOutbreak suit designersMad Max era gas hoardersGuy collecting books who sits on his glasses— Jeremy Newberger (@jeremynewberger) January 30, 2020

Nothing quite says economic growth quite like *puts glasses on* the apocalypse— The Holy Spirit (@TweetOfSpirit_) January 30, 2020

Peak gilded age, out of touch is @SecretaryRoss saying the coronavirus is a good thing for American jobs. That a guy can get to his level of prominence while having this kind of stuff come out of his mouth casually says a lot about where we are as a country.— Lindsey Boylan (@LindseyBoylan) January 30, 2020

Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross (actually) just said on Fox Business News that coronavirus could help American economy by bringing jobs to the US because companies may want to move here due health risks. The death toll from the virus has reached 170— Laura Litvan (@LauraLitvan) January 30, 2020

Because, you know, it’s easy to abandon factories in China and construct them in North America overnight, all the while attracting extremely cheap labor. And there are never any health issues on this sound of the pond, right? Moron.— Matthew Ross (@MatthewWords) January 30, 2020

Some days it’s hard to not think we are living in a Marvel movie when all these guys are straight from the “evil overload typecasting couch.”— Brady Goodman (@bradygoodman) January 30, 2020

I mean even if you think this, what would make anyone think it’s a good idea to say it on television? We’re talking about a deadly virus. People are fighting for their life as we speak— Marcel Dirsus (@marceldirsus) January 30, 2020

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Coronavirus Continues To Spread; Number Of Cases Now Tops 7,700

BEIJING (AP) — The death toll rose to 170 in the new virus outbreak in China on Thursday as foreign evacuees from the worst-hit region begin returning home under close observation and world health officials expressed “great concern” that the disease is starting to spread between people outside of China.
Thursday’s figures cover the previous 24 hours and represent an increase of 38 deaths and 1,737 cases for a total of 7,711. Of the new deaths, 37 were in the epicenter of the outbreak in Hubei province and one in the southwestern province of Sichuan.
The news comes as the 195 Americans evacuated from Wuhan, the Hubei province city of 11 million where the outbreak originated, are undergoing three days of testing and monitoring at a Southern California military base to make sure they do not show signs of the virus.
A group of 210 Japanese evacuees from Wuhan landed Thursday at Tokyo’s Haneda airport on a second government-chartered flight, according to the foreign ministry. 

Anthony Kwan via Getty Images

France, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and other countries are also pulling out their citizens or making plans to do so.  

Reports said nine of those aboard the flight showed signs of cough and fever. Three of the 206 Japanese who returned on Wednesday tested positive for the new coronavirus, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said during a parliamentary session. Two of them showed no symptoms of the disease.
Japan’s Health Ministry earlier confirmed the second suspected human transmission in a tour bus guide who had escorted a group of travelers from Wuhan. The bus driver was also infected. Neither had traveled to China.
France, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and other countries are also pulling out their citizens or making plans to do so.
In South Korea, residents of two cities where quarantine facilities are being prepared threw eggs and plastic water bottles at government officials to protest plans to isolate the 700 South Korean nationals the government plans to evacuate from China and isolate in their neighborhoods.
President Donald Trump has been relatively tight-lipped about the crisis. Aides and confidants say Trump’s careful approach is part of a political strategy to avoid upsetting the stock market or angering China by calling too much attention to the virus or blaming Beijing for not managing the situation better.
“We’re very much involved with them, right now, on the virus that’s going around,” Trump said of China before signing a trade deal at the White House on Wednesday. He said he had discussed the situation with Chinese President Xi Jinping and added, “We’re working very closely with China.”
There have been just five confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S.
Amid reports of shortages in food and daily necessities in hot-spot areas, the authorities are “stepping up efforts to ensure continuous supply and stable prices,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
It cited Ministry of Commerce data showing current reserves in Wuhan can ensure a secure supply of rice and cooking oil for more than 15 days, pork and eggs for more than 10 days and vegetables for about five days. The government has offered no estimates as to when it can contain the outbreak, although some specialists have speculated that the spread of the disease will reach its peak in about two weeks.
The World Health Organization emergencies chief said the few cases of human-to-human spread of the virus outside China — in Japan, Germany, Canada and Vietnam — were of “great concern” and were part of the reason the U.N. health agency’s director-general was reconvening a committee of experts on Thursday to assess whether the outbreak should be declared a global emergency.
The new virus has now infected more people in China than were sickened there during the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak.
Dr. Michael Ryan spoke at a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday after returning from a trip to Beijing to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other senior government leaders. He said China was taking “extraordinary measures in the face of an extraordinary challenge” posed by the outbreak.
To date, about 99% of the cases are in China. Ryan estimated the death rate of the new virus at 2%, but said the figure was very preliminary. With fluctuating numbers of cases and deaths, scientists are only able to produce a rough estimate of the fatality rate and it’s likely many milder cases of the virus are being missed.
In comparison, the SARS virus killed about 10% of people who caught it. The new virus is from the coronavirus family, which includes those that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS.
Scientists say there are many questions to be answered about the new virus, including just how easily it spreads and how severe it is.
In a report published Wednesday, Chinese researchers suggested that person-to-person spread among close contacts occurred as early as mid-December.
“Considerable efforts” will be needed to control the spread if this ratio holds up elsewhere, researchers wrote in the report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
More than half of the cases in which symptoms began before Jan. 1 were tied to a seafood market, but only 8% of cases after that have been, researchers found. They reported the average incubation period was five days.

Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Tong-hyung Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.

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Trump Lawyer Says Seeking Foreign Help In Elections Isn’t Illegal If Information Is ‘Credible’

Democrats were left “stunned” Wednesday after President Donald Trump’s defense team made the bold claim during the Q&A portion of the Senate impeachment trial that soliciting or accepting information from foreign governments about one’s political rivals is OK so long as the information is “credible.”
The argument was put forth by White House deputy counsel Patrick Philbin in response to a question posed by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) about Trump’s apparent willingness to solicit dirt about his campaign rivals from countries such as Russia and China.
“Mere information is not something that would violate the campaign finance laws,” Philbin said. “If there is credible information ― credible information of wrongdoing by someone who is running for a public office ― it’s not campaign interference for credible information about wrongdoing to be brought to light.”
“The idea that any information that happens to come from overseas is necessarily campaign interference is a mistake,” he added.
The President’s counsel didn’t answer my question or stand by the position in his brief. It should be easy: foreign interference in an American election is illegal. The President should agree.— Senator Chris Coons (@ChrisCoons) January 30, 2020

Reacting to Philbin’s remarks, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), one of the House impeachment managers, said she was “stunned to hear that now apparently it’s OK for the president to get information from foreign governments in an election.”
“That’s news to me,” Lofgren said. 
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said he too was “stunned” by Philbin’s argument, The Washington Post reported. 
“I have a hard time even believing they were making that argument,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said of Trump’s defense team, according to CNN.
“It’s so shocking,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) added. 
Dem senators incensed that WH defense counsel says asking a foreign leader for “mere information” doesn’t violate campaign finance law. Some words used by @MartinHeinrich @ChrisMurphyCT @SenStabenowExtraordinaryabsolutely unconscionablebonkersimmoralwrongstunning— Leigh Ann Caldwell (@LACaldwellDC) January 30, 2020

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) said people around her were dumbfounded, turning to their neighbors to confirm that they’d heard Mr. Philbin correctly. “They said, ‘Did you hear that? Did I hear that right?’” via @WSJ— Lindsay Wise (@lindsaywise) January 30, 2020

Senate Republicans had a different take on the matter. 
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Philbin was “absolutely correct” in his assertion, HuffPost’s Igor Bobic reported.
“I believe that if I asked a foreign government to announce an investigation into my opponent where there is no legitimacy, that would be a corrupt act on my part,” Graham said.
Lindsey Graham said Philbin was “absolutely correct” when he argued that asking a foreign leader for information on a political opponent wouldn’t violate campaign finance law.— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) January 30, 2020

Philbin’s remarks about foreign interference followed an earlier line of defense posited by Trump’s team that the president of the United States can, in effect, do whatever he wants to get himself reelected as long as he believes that his reelection is “in the public interest.” 
Trump attorney Alan Dershowitz: “If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”— ABC News (@ABC) January 29, 2020

House manager and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) excoriated Philbin and the rest of Trump’s team for considerably “lowering” the bar in their defense of the president. 
“We’ve witnessed over the course of the last few days and the long day today a remarkable lowering of the bar to the point now where everything’s OK as long as the president believes it’s in his reelection interest,” Schiff said.

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