An American citizen living in Wuhan, China, has died of the coronavirus that’s now sweeping across China. The 60-year-old becomes the first American to die of the coronavirus.
According to the Chinese health agency, 89 people died from the coronavirus yesterday alone, bringing the death toll to 813. That surpasses the 774 people who died during the SARS outbreak in 2003.
But SARS infected only 8000 people. So far, more than 37,000 cases of the coronavirus have been recorded. That makes the mortality rate far lower than for SARS.
Despite praise from the World Health Organization (WHO) for the Chinese response, critics are wondering what the health bureaucrats are talking about.
China’s state censors have clamped down this week on digital items related to the outbreak of a new coronavirus, removing local news reports that expose the dire circumstances in the city of Wuhan, epicenter of the outbreak, and scrubbing social media platforms of posts from Wuhan residents who say they are ill and desperate for medical care and supplies.
Those restrictions were put to the test on Friday after the death of Dr. Li Wenliang, one of the eight whistleblowers reprimanded by police for warning others about a mysterious pneumonialike disease in December. Less than 90 minutes after his death on Friday morning, the hashtag “I want freedom of speech” was trending on Weibo, a popular Chinese blogging site, with nearly 2 million posts. The posts were gone by sunrise.
It seems that, in communist countries, the more things change…
This chokehold on information, now six weeks after the first public reports of a pneumonialike illness surfaced on Dec. 30, heralds a new stage in the Chinese state’s response to the new coronavirus.
“We are also seeing these restrictions being accompanied by intensified propaganda,” says Maria Repnivoka, a global communications professor at Georgia State University. “The message being: We get that this is a grave problem, and we are fixing it.”+
“Comrades! You are in no danger, none whatsoever. So sit down, shut up. And obey.”
There is hopeful news on the coronavirus about the rate of increase in the infection and the shape of the epidemic curve. Fox News reports, “It appears that a turning point (the so-called ‘inflection point’) has already been reached. This is the place where the curve starts to flatten out, signaling that control may be in sight.”
But that might change. If the coronavirus slips out of control in a well-populated area, all bets are off. Current efforts on isolating each and every case will probably be enough to keep the epidemic under control. There certainly is very little chance of a global pandemic unless the virus mutates and becomes resistant to antibiotics or worse, changes its morphology so that it can be spread much more easily from human to human.
China may be trying to hide the truth from its own citizens, but they’re not stupid enough to keep international health organizations in the dark. While Beijing refuses the help of the preeminent scientists and researchers in the world at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they appear capable of handling the outbreak on their own.