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Coronavirus update: Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response; first case in CA with no travel link

Anjalee Khemlani
Senior Reporter

The U.S. reported its first new confirmed coronavirus case in weeks, in northern California— but this time there is no known travel link.

The report came as President Donald Trump addressed the market volatility late Wednesday.

Trump said the selloffs on Monday and Tuesday were due to statements from candidates during the Democratic Presidential debates on Tuesday and in part because of the virus outbreak, “because of supply chains and various other things.”

Trump added the markets will recover because the “consumer is strongest it’s ever been,” and that travel companies that are hurting the most in the markets will recover later in the year.

“They would be hurt, at the same time, this ends, this is going to end,” he said.

Trump stopped short of appointing a coronavirus czar, announcing Vice President Mike Pence as lead of the coronavirus response in the U.S.

He also addressed the $2.5 billion emergency request for the outbreak response, which has been discussed with lawmakers on Capitol Hill fin the past two days.

Trump said he thought the amount was high, but some Republican lawmakers think $4 billion is adequate, while Democrats are looking at $8.5 billion.

“We’ll take whatever it is,” Trump said.


Meanwile, Europe’s attempts to contain its escalating coronavirus outbreak appeared to be faltering on Wednesday, as Germany became the latest country to warn that it was on the verge of an epidemic — while increasingly dire warnings from U.S. officials sent markets into a tailspin.

Although China’s new infections have slowed, the virus has now appeared on six continents — bringing the case total above 81,000 and leaving around 2,700 dead.

And for the first time, the number of cases globally are greater than those in China, according to the World Health Organization.

Italy, which with over 300 cases has the third largest cluster of new illnesses, reported a doubling in new cases overnight. Perhaps more worrisome was an outbreak in Germany — Europe’s largest economy — where the health minister warned the government was no longer able to track new infections.

"We are at the beginning of a coronavirus epidemic in Germany,” Jens Spahn told reporters.

While President Donald Trump maintained the low risk to the U.S. Wednesday, representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration have issued dire warnings about the U.S. being “on the cusp” of a pandemic.

“I don’t think we are prepared to deal with the kind of restrictions that China placed on many of its citizens,” University of Houston law professor Seth Chandler told Yahoo Finance in an interview.

A host of multinational companies have shuttered operations and restricted travel to the world’s second largest economy, which itself has imposed quarantines and tightened the reins on business activity.

“While we do have good laws and we do have well-meaning people, we do still have an attitude that respects freedom and choice, which is normally a good thing,” Chandler said. However, “I’m not sure how wiling we are to shut down our economy,” he added.

Calling for a response to the outbreak that would be the functional equivalent to the Manhattan Project, Chandler said that “rational fear will paralyze an economy. Moreover, it might not be just two weeks of hunkering down. So long as the virus keeps bubbling up...the economy will be seriously depressed and social norms may change greatly.”

Markets

Wall Street was in the throes of another volatile day, with the S&P 500 (^GSPC), Dow (^DJI) and Nasdaq (^IXIC) surrendering early gains after a rebound attempt from a steep two-day selloff fell short.

The pathogen’s impact on China has economists revising global growth prospects, and delivered a hard blow to multinational supply chains.

“Anything that has coronavirus moves this market,” Alan Valdes, senior partner at Silverbear Capital, told Yahoo Finance Wednesday.

However, some pharmaceuticals are emerging as winners amid the outbreak. Several small cap life sciences companies have cited incremental progress in the fight to find a vaccine or treatment for the virus — including Novavax (NVAX), Gilead (GILD), Johnson and Johnson (JNJ) and Dyadic (DYAI).

Meanwhile, Moderna shipped its first vaccine to be tested to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The spread of the virus has initiated a slew of travel advisories around the world, especially for travel to South Korea, Japan, Iran and Italy — where the spread has increased rapidly in the past few days.

Meanwhile, Brazil reported its first positive case, marking the first instance in Latin America.