There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. And a climate of fear has some looking for scapegoats.
We know the virus was first discovered in Wuhan, China. But health officials made a concerted effort early on to leave the origin out of the name, instead calling it COVID-19 – for the coronavirus disease. The goal was to not associate the virus with the place or people where it originated from. (Note: this was not the case with some past viruses. For example, MERS stands for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.) But still, the spread of COVID-19 may be leading to a rise of racism and xenophobia.
The US…where an FBI report is apparently warning of an uptick in anti-Asian American hate crimes. New research also seems to show anti-Chinese sentiment growing online, in places ranging from 4chan to Instagram and Twitter. One professor has logged more than 1,100 reports of "coronavirus discrimination" against Asian Americans – including verbal harassment and physical assault. And last month, a man in Texas allegedly tried to kill an Asian American family, stabbing three. Asian American leaders have called on Congress to denounce the racism.
China…where there's been concern over a second wave of COVID-19 cases coming from abroad...and some are blaming Africans. Earlier this month, there was a rise in reported cases in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou – home to a large African expat community. Now, there are reports that police there barred restaurants from serving people who look to be "of African origin." Some have reportedly been evicted from their homes despite claiming to have no recent travel history or contact with coronavirus patients. Nigeria and several other African countries have voiced concern over the reports. Chinese officials said they treat all foreigners equally when it comes to enforcing containment efforts.
This pandemic has brought out some of the best in our society as we've banded together (at a safe distance). But it also appears to have brought out the worst. And serves as a reminder that fear is no excuse for racism and xenophobia.
One challenge coming out of COVID-19: food supply chains. Roughly half of US farms reportedly send their food to restaurants, schools, and places like theme parks, cruises, and stadiums. But with shutdowns across the US, they're having to rearrange their supply chains to get food to places like grocery stores and food banks.
That kind of adjustment can reportedly take a year or so to coordinate, but farmers only have about a week before the food goes bad. If they're unable to move and sell the produce quickly, their farms could shut down. And until then, many have reportedly resorted to dumping millions of gallons of milk and tens of millions of pounds of produce.
The issue is just the latest logistical challenge as businesses are disrupted amid the pandemic. And it comes as Smithfield Foods – the world's biggest pork processor – has had to shut down one of its US plants because of a wave of coronavirus cases there.
Apple and Google. On Friday, the two said they're working together to allow contact tracing on their devices. Yes, all billions of them. The goal: to track (and help reduce) the spread of COVID-19. Here's how it would work: users could opt into an app (created by public health authorities) that uses Bluetooth tech for contact tracing. If someone you've come into contact with in the past 14 days tests positive for COVID-19 and notifies the app, you'd get an alert that you might have been exposed. One key hiccup: the apps don't exist yet – and it's not 100% clear if the US gov and health officials are on board.
Timing is everything: President Trump says he wants to start reopening the country on May 1. These tech companies plan to release the tool publicly "in the coming months." You do the math.
Pri-va-see what you did there: The companies say the info would stay anonymous. But critics are concerned about entrusting people's physical locations and personal health data to large tech companies with a less-than-spotless record on privacy.
PS: GV (formerly Google Ventures) is a minority investor in theSkimm.
The world's oil producers. Yesterday, they finalized a deal to cut output by 9.7 million barrels a day – the largest production cut in history. Reminder: the coronavirus outbreak has caused lower demand for fuel since mostly everyone's been parked on their couch. Last month, Russia and Saudi Arabia (two of the world's biggest oil producers) couldn't agree on a deal to cut production, launching a price war and causing oil prices to tank. Now, OPEC and friends agreed to limit output to give oil prices a boost. Unclear if it'll work while stay-at-home measures are still in effect around the world.
Boris Johnson. Yesterday, the British prime minister left the hospital where he'd been staying for COVID-19 treatment. He's still not out of the woods – but after getting oxygen treatment in the ICU, he's now recovering at his country home.
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