Is This the “Once-in-a-Century” Pathogen?

An employee sews protective clothing at a factory in China's Fujian Province earlier today. Image: Wang Dongming/China News Service via Getty
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An employee sews protective clothing at a factory in China's Fujian Province earlier today. Image: Wang Dongming/China News Service via Getty

Even as China reported a 6-week low in new COVID-19 cases,  swiftly rising case counts elsewhere—including the first cases in megacities Jakarta, New York, and Berlin—stirred growing global distress and worries over worst-case scenarios, the AP reports

It’s behaving a lot like the “once-in-a-century pathogen we've been worried about,” Bill Gates writes in the New England Journal of Medicine

“I hope it’s not that bad, but we should assume it will be until we know otherwise,” Gates says, underlining ominous signs: It’s lethal to healthy adults as well as the elderly; it has a fatality risk that seems to be around 1%—many times more severe than typical seasonal flu.

Jonathan Quick, former Global Health Council chair, tells The Guardian he thinks it looks increasingly likely that COVID-19 will eventually become endemic "meaning it circulates permanently in the human population.” 

Quick urges the mobilization of more health workers, public engagement, “sensible” travel controls, and ready access to diagnostic tests.

Gates adds that donor governments should help low- and middle-income countries prepare now to slow COVID-19’s global march. They also should invest in strengthening health systems, disease surveillance, and technology so that we’re better prepared the next time.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus agrees the world needs to prepare for the worst, but sought to quell fears and market jitters, pleading for calm yesterday, MarketWatch reports. On Friday, the WHO raised its coronavirus threat assessment to highest level, The Hill reports.

Key Developments:

China launched an effort requiring
 people to add software on their smartphones to guide them on quarantine orders—but apparently it shares information with police, too, opening up a new surveillance front. The New York Times

The US reported it’s first COVID-19 death Saturday—in Washington state, along with a concerning first known outbreak in a long-term care facility. STAT

The WHO warns that scammers are posing as WHO reps to phish for sensitive information; the agency says to be vigilant and verify the authenticity of any people claiming to be from the health agency. UN News

The Latest Numbers (from AP):

  • Globally: 60+ countries affected; 89,000+ cases; 3,000+ deaths.
  • Mainland China: 80,026 cases; 2,912 deaths 

Today: COVID-19 Webcast by Johns Hopkins Experts

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will host another live webcast with Johns Hopkins experts discussing the latest COVID-19 news today at 11:30 a.m.

Jennifer Nuzzo, DrPH, SM; Lauren Sauer, MS; Tara Kirk Sell, PhD, MA; and moderator Joshua Sharfstein, MD will discuss the findings of the Global Health Security Index, as well as what you need to know about community transmission, how to protect yourself from misinformation, and other developing topics. 

Submit questions before or during the broadcast on the Q&A module on the right side of the livestream’s video player here:

If you can’t tune in live, an archived recording link will be made available soon afterwards.

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