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Pope Francis sick as Coronavirus spreads and markets fall
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Pope Francis is making headlines because he has a cold. The illness coincides with an outbreak of Coronavirus in Italy. While the Pope does not appear to be seriously ill, he cancelled his Friday audiences. Coronavirus appears impossible to contain and will impact the Church. Markets around the world are falling as economic activity is expected to drop.
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Pope Francis is sick with a cold, but Coronavirus looms over Italy. The Church will be impacted by the outbreak.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Pope Francis canceled his Friday audiences due to an apparent cold. While it does not seem he is infected with Coronavirus, the sight of the Pontiff with a handkerchief underscores what is happening in northern Italy. Italy is home to the largest outbreak of Coronavirus in Europe. Yesterday, the number of reported cases jumped by 50 percent. About 650 people have been diagnosed with the illness and 17 have died. The majority of cases are in the Lombardy region. Several communities are locked down in an effort to contain the disease.
Containment of Coronavirus appears less and less likely. Infections are appearing in more countries each day. Brazil reported their first case on Thursday, and there are reports of a case in Nigeria. The WHO has not yet reported on the case in Nigeria. It is likely the disease is even more widespread than believed. This is because victims can be asymptomatic for many days before becoming sick. During that time they can spread the disease, making it difficult to contain.
In California, public officials announced they are monitoring more than 8,400 people for signs of infection. At least one infection was reported on Thursday in a person who had no known connection to the origin of the disease. This suggests the disease is already spreading "in the wild" beyond detection and containment.
It is also apparent that some people can be reinfected after overcoming the infection.
While the virus is incredibly infectious, it does not seem particularly deadly. However, there are no solid figures on how deadly the virus is. Estimates range between .03 percent, which is similar to the seasonal flu, to a high of 3 percent. The lower estimates appear more accurate.
If the disease is lethal in one percent of cases, that means one out of one hundred people will die. If you have a hundred friends in your social network, the odds suggest at least a few will be hospitalized, and at least one may die.
So far, the elderly seem to be the most vulnerable. Most victims merely experience symptoms consistent a mild cold.
Authorities simply don't know how bad the disease will get which is why they are taking such an aggressive approach to halting the disease, resorting to quarantines. In China, bodies are being cremated without delay.
As with most things, the fear is worse than the thing itself. However, that fear has caused markets to plunge and a recession now appears inevitable. The vaunted "Trump Economy" is screeching to a halt. The market has suffered its worse week since 2008. About $6 trillion in value has been wiped out by the collapse.
Experts fear production halts in supply chains. Due to quarantines and other measures intended to slow the spread of the virus, factories are closed or operating at reduced capacity. This means a shortage of supplies for markets.
In the United States, fear of the virus is compounded by the nature of the healthcare system and workplace regulations which do little to support workers. These factors render the United States uniquely vulnerable to the disease. Potential victims will be reluctant to be tested for the disease because the cost of the test is in the thousands of dollars. And since workers generally get very little paid sick leave (usually only a few days or none), many will simply show up to work sick, spreading the infection. Many working class Americans cannot sustain the disruption. This will likely have political consequences since 2020 is a major election year for the United States. The impact of the disease will highlight the lack of economic safety net for those who are sick. Virtually all other industrialized, western nations have laws to protect workers that are sick.
Meanwhile, schools are expected to close in areas where the disease emerges. This will compel people to stay home with children who do not have childcare. Few childcare professionals are likely to accept children who could be ill.
The Church will be impacted by the virus. Church leaders who are elderly will be more vulnerable because the disease hits older victims the hardest. Will Pope Francis become ill? It's possible.
Many churches will take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. In some places, gatherings will be cancelled.
Perhaps the best policy would be to do nothing at all? The spread of the disease appears inevitable, so quarantines and other disruptions only exacerbate the hardship. They certainly aren't working. The focus needs to be on the development of a vaccine, raising public awareness, and encouraging people to change habits to minimize risk of infection.
For now, prepare yourself for disruptions and let us pray for the health of all.
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