By Jaimy Lee
The rising number of COVID-19 cases and deaths outside of China has led to cancellations of major events, including a two-week shutdown of Tokyo Disney, all gatherings in Switzerland of more than 1,000 people, and caused Facebook /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB -0.16% , Microsoft /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT +1.02% , and Workday /zigman2/quotes/201157610/composite WDAY +0.48% to withdraw from or cancel events.
Even Eventbrite Inc. /zigman2/quotes/208043748/composite EB -0.46% , the online events and ticketing company, told investors Thursday that it is seeing “early evidence” of coronavirus-related event cancellations. “We expect that the outbreak will impact live events and attendance in the near term,” CFO Charles Baker said on an earnings call.
There are now a total of 83,861 cases of COVID-19 and at least 2,867 deaths, according to the latest figures from the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering’s Centers for Systems Science and Engineering. About 36,000 people have recovered.
The novel coronavirus was first detected in December in Wuhan, China. Over the last month, large parts of China have been shut down. Factories are closed or operating with restricted hours. Shops and restaurants are shuttered. Similar stories are now being reported in countries like Italy, which has 655 cases and 17 deaths, and Japan, which has 228 cases and four deaths.
There are now 388 cases in Iran and 34 deaths and 2,337 cases and 13 deaths in South Korea. In the U.S., there are 62 cases, including the first possible case of a transmission of the virus in the community, of a woman in Northern California who is being treated at a hospital in Sacramento. Two additional cases of former passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship were disclosed on Friday. In addition, over the past two days, several countries have reported their first cases of COVID-19, including Brazil, Georgia, New Zealand, and Norway.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday said that it had raised its risk assessment relating to COVID-19 for the rest of the world to very high from high. China, where the outbreak of the novel coronavirus started, had previously been designated with a very high-risk assessment. “What we see at the moment are linked epidemics of COVID-19 in several countries, but most cases can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, said during a news conference on Friday. “We do not see evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities.” If that were to be the case, the outbreak would be defined as a pandemic, a definition that WHO has not made.
In the U.S., concern about the spread of the novel coronavirus has been sidelined by growing criticism about the Trump administration’s response to the outbreak.
Hundreds of U.S. nationals were repatriated from mainland China on State Department-chartered flights, starting Jan. 29, and then placed in 14-day quarantines on air bases in California. A new whistleblower complaint alleges that federal employees sent to air bases in California didn’t follow safety protocols while interacting with those individuals, people familiar with the allegations told The Wall Street Journal . Those workers reportedly weren’t tested for COVID-19 before departing March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County and Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., and then were sent home on commercial flights.
The allegations round out a roller-coaster week that started with a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official telling Americans to prepare for a pandemic in a series of comments that further troubled markets that were already stressed about rising case counts outside of China, particularly in Iran, Italy, and South Korea.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump held a news conference seeking to reassure the public that there was a “very, very low” risk of infection with COVID-19. He put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the nation’s coronavirus response, a move that led Raymond James analyst and former Health and Human Services (HHS) official Chris Meekins to write in a note to investors that he’s “confused how adding a layer of bureaucracy for HHS staff will improve the response.” That night, the CDC confirmed the first possible case of transmission of the virus without a known source, in a woman in Northern California.
On Friday, White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Americans will “probably” see some schools shut down and “impacts on public transportation.” “But we do this we know how to handle this,” he said at an American Conservative Union event.
Elsewhere in Washington, lawmakers are debating how many billions of dollars in spending that they will set aside for the outbreak. The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that an unnamed drugmaker has reported a shortage of a medication that uses an active pharmaceutical ingredient made at a site in China affected by the outbreak.
Pence is expected to hold a public coronavirus response meeting with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday afternoon at Palm Beach International Airport.
Here’s how companies are being impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak:
• Emerson Electric Co. /zigman2/quotes/200181610/composite EMR -0.02% expects the outbreak to shave $100 million to $150 million off its second-quarter sales, wider than its previous estimate of a hit of $75 million to $100 million. In a regulatory filing, the St. Louis, Mo.-based company said it expects half of the lost revenue to be recovered in the fiscal year. “However, the longer the coronavirus endures, the lower the likelihood of sales recovery this year,” said the filing.
• Deutsche Bank downgraded Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/208854639/composite RCL +0.33% and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings /zigman2/quotes/204183397/composite NCLH -2.55% to hold from buy and slashed the price target on Carnival Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202325446/composite CCL -1.19% over uncertainty caused by the outbreak. So far this week through Thursday, shares of Royal Caribbean fell 27.4%, Norwegian dropped 26.0% and Carnival shed 23.6%, all to multiyear lows, amid growing concerns over the potential negative impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
• U.S. travel agency ticketing measured by dollars transacted fell 9.4% this week from the year-earlier period, Vertical Research Partners said Friday, amid growing concerns about the coronavirus. On a rolling four-week basis, travel agency ticketing is 4.4% lower than a year ago, also equal to a 400 basis points decline.
Additional reporting by Ciara Linnane, Claudia Assis and Tomi Kilgore
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