U.S. Investigates Laboratory In Wuhan

The latest in COVID-19

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U.S. Investigates Laboratory In Wuhan

Quick Take

  • The U.S. government investigates possible COVID-19 origination from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.
  • NY extends the state’s shutdown to May 15th and mandates face coverings in public.
  • $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program runs out of funds and declines new applications.
  • Japan makes roughly $1,000 cash payments to individuals as the nation declares an emergency.

There are now more than 2.2 million global confirmed coronavirus cases with deaths topping 145k. Fatalities in the U.S. are toping 35k.

U.S. Investigates Chinese Laboratory 

The United States government is looking into the possibility that the novel coronavirus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, and was accidentally released to the public. US intelligence is investigating whether someone was infected in the lab through an accident or poor handling of materials and may have then infected others.

Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Mark Milley acknowledged this week that US intelligence is taking “a hard look” at whether the novel coronavirus originated in a lab. President Trump said yesterday the government is doing a thorough examination.

The Washington Post has reported on State Department cables from 2018 demonstrating concerns about the safety and the management of the Wuhan Institute of Virology biolab. The lab theory has been denied by the Chinese government and many outside experts have also cast doubt on the idea.

Nationalism Arises In China As Virus Fades

As the coronavirus pandemic ravages many countries, China’s success in curbing its own epidemic is giving rise to an increase in nationalism. A Chinese restaurant has put up a huge banner to celebrate the fact that the United States and Japan have been hit by the virus. The red banner was placed in front of the restaurant yesterday and read: ‘Huge congratulations to the American epidemic and long live the epidemic in little Japan.” The restaurant owner installed the banner as an attempt to attract more customers.

A widely circulated cartoon also showed foreigners being sorted into trash bins. In Beijing and Shanghai, foreigners have been banned from some shops and gyms. In southern China, African residents reported being evicted from their homes and hotels and have also been ordered to undergo 14-day quarantines at their own expense, even if they have no recent travel history or have already tested negative. Some of the uglier manifestations of nationalism have been fueled by government propaganda.

NY Extends Lockdown Through May

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended the state’s shutdown to May 15th as the state reported its first sharp decline in daily deaths with 606 fatalities. The numbers of newly critically ill and intubated patients also dropped significantly for the first time. Cuomo warned against thinking the picture is rosy as the state’s infection rate is 0.9, compared to 0.3 in Wuhan. 

Cuomo said he planned to coordinate the reopening effort with a regional group of northeastern states. The White House says it has a conference call scheduled with governors today to discuss its own hopes for a May 1st reopening in some states. The governor also defended his newly imposed order mandating all New Yorkers to wear protective masks in public, saying it makes all the difference in the world.

Small Business Loan Program Is Out Of Money

A new lending program for small businesses has maxed out this morning and stopped accepting claims. The SBA website says that the agency “is unable to accept new applications … based on available appropriations funding.”

The $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program was a central piece of the massive $2 trillion economic stimulus package. The program is aimed at helping businesses with less than 500 workers to keep people employed by extending loans that are forgivable if businesses keep workers on the payroll.

The SBA reported that more than 1.6 million loan applications valued at over $339 billion have been approved. Last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asked Congress to agree to $250 billion more for the program, but a GOP attempt to approve that increase failed in the Senate. A bitterly divided in Congress looks unlikely to address the growing problem for small businesses as 5.2 million people filed for unemployment last week.

Britain Extends Lockdown Through May

The British government has officially announced a three-week extinction to its nationwide lockdown, amid signs that the country is nearing its peak. Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has taken over many of the duties of Prime Minister Boris Johnson while he recovers from the virus.

Medical experts say the most important prerequisite to lifting the lockdown is more extensive testing, and the government has set a goal of conducting 100,000 tests a day by the end of April. Currently testing capacity in the country is less than 20,000 tests per day. The UK reported 861 fatalities yesterday with a death toll of more than 13,000.

Japan Provides Citizens With Cash Payments

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has declared a national emergency, calling for measures to slow the spread of the virus before Golden Week. Prime Minister Abe had previously declared a state of emergency in seven of the country’s 47 prefectures, including its largest metropolitan areas, calling for an 80 percent reduction in person-to-person contact. The national declaration will give governors the authority to call on businesses to close and residents to stay inside.

Japanese lawmakers have so far declined to issue mandatory lockdowns put in place in China, Europe and the United States, with some arguing that the country’s Constitution prohibits such measures. Instead, officials have been put in the position for voluntary compliance.

Experts warn that during the weeklong holiday starting April 29, people could spread the virus to previously unaffected areas, overwhelming their medical systems. Japan’s government will provide individuals with cash payments of 100,000 yen, roughly $1,000, to alleviate economic hardship. In the last month, Japan has seen a sharp rise in confirmed infections, to more than 8,000.