The coronavirus is sounding alarms around the world.
Remind me how we got here.
The pneumonia-like virus was discovered last month in Wuhan, central China. The virus strain appears to have been linked to a seafood market there that also sold wildlife like snakes and crocodiles. The virus then spread to humans. Its symptoms include a fever, cough, and trouble breathing. And those with weaker immune systems (like the elderly) could face more serious symptoms like bronchitis. Since its outbreak, at least 26 people have died and hundreds have been infected. Many health officials have likened it to SARS.
Yes, SARS – a respiratory virus that infected more than 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in the early 2000s. It, too, is believed to have emerged from wildlife in China and spread to humans, spanning almost 30 countries. SARS lasted for months, and to this day, there is no approved vaccine for it.
Wow. So what's being done for this virus?
China says it's allocating $144 million to fight the deadly outbreak. It's also quarantined the entire city of Wuhan – 11 million people. That includes stopping all buses, trains, and planes from leaving or entering an area about five times the size of London. But that's not all: at least nine other cities are also facing travel restrictions. And yesterday, Beijing canceled some Lunar New Year celebrations (which begin tomorrow) in an effort to control the spread of the deadly coronavirus virus.
Is it only in China?
Actually, the virus has spread to other countries. It was also found in the US, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand. Singapore and Vietnam were the latest to join the list. So some major airports are screening travelers for symptoms of the virus.
Did you say the US?
Yup. But officials have only confirmed one case of the virus in Washington state. And although the death toll is significantly lower than other deadly viruses like the flu, one potential difference here is the death rate. Right now, there are dozens of coronavirus deaths out of only hundreds of confirmed cases...it's a much higher rate. And it's raising concerns among public health experts about the potential dangers if this virus continues to spread. The State Department and CDC have issued travel advisories and health warnings. But the World Health Organization says it's "too early" to declare a global health emergency.
When China had its SARS outbreak almost two decades ago, it tried to cover it up. This time, it put travel restrictions on millions of people. It's a decision that could take a hit on China's economy. But it also shows how seriously China is taking the public health threat this time around – and its effort to prevent the outbreak from spreading further.
What's cracking down on travel…
The Trump admin. This is about new rules to limit "birth tourism" in the US. The term refers to when pregnant women travel to the US to give birth so their baby can have US citizenship. But under new rules – set to take effect today – pregnant women could be denied visas. There are exceptions, including for proven medical reasons to travel.
At a glance: The State Department estimates that thousands of foreign women come to the US to give birth. The White House said the new rules close an "immigration loophole." But some see this as another effort to chip away at birthright citizenship. Critics are reportedly calling it discriminatory and unconstitutional.
Big business: Some companies apparently charge tens of thousands of dollars to help foreign women give birth in the US, offering hotel rooms and medical care. Many of the women reportedly travel from all over the world, but especially from Russia and China, among other countries.
What might have you visiting an accountant...
FICO scores. Yesterday, the company behind FICO scores launched a new scoring model. It'll incorporate consumers' rising debt levels and how quickly they pay it back (think: credit card debt, personal loans). FICO reportedly says the changes give more flexibility to lenders to assess risks so they can make better, more informed decisions about who they lend to. The company estimates that about 80 million consumers will see a change of 20 points, making their credit score either higher or lower. The updated scoring system is set to take effect this summer.
Psst...Credit card debt holding you back from hitting a high score? Time to pay it off. Here's how.
When you get a text from your (Fed)Ex...
Opening arguments continue today in the impeachment trial of President Trump. Here's how it's shaping up:
Let's talk it out: House impeachment managers focused their second day of arguments on the abuse of power charge against Trump. And turned the focus on the Bidens, arguing there was no basis for the president to suspect them of corruption in Ukraine.
The clock is ticking: Dems are winding down on their allotted time of 24-hours for opening remarks. Today, they're expected to present their case on article two, obstruction of Congress. Tomorrow, Trump's defense team is expected to take over.
Sitting on the (Senate) sidelines: Some familiar faces are sitting in silence at the trial. We're talking about 2020 Dem candidates Sens Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Michael Bennet (D-CO). Meanwhile, their rivals have been campaigning ahead of the Iowa caucuses on Feb 3.