☕ Cover: Victoria Peak, Hong Kong. In July 1968, a flu pandemic appeared in the Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and fanned out across the world.
Good Morning. Here’s what you need to know to start the day, along with perspective from both sides for calmer coffee conversations with your family, friends, colleagues, and co-workers. Plus, a bit of good news: Italy’s daily coronavirus death toll fell below 100 for the first time since March 9
📰 TOP STORY
A Quick History Lesson: In July 1968, a flu pandemic appeared in Hong Kong and within a month extensive outbreaks were reported in Vietnam and Singapore. By September of that year, the outbreak had reached India, the Philippines, northern Australia, and Europe. Simultaneously, the virus entered California, carried by returning troops from the Vietnam War, but it did not become widespread in the United States until the final month of the year. Then, in 1969, it reached Japan, Africa, and South America and in turn, gruesome reports began to emerge regarding its spread. The WSJ writes that, “the novel virus triggered a state of emergency in New York City; caused so many deaths in Berlin that corpses were stored in subway tunnels; overwhelmed London’s hospitals; and in some areas of France left half of the workforce bedridden. Severely ill patients suffering from acute pneumonia were put on ventilators, often in vain.” Sound familiar?
One Big Difference: While there are many notable similarities between the Hong Kong Flu and COVID-19 (e.g. symptomology and who is most vulnerable to the disease), one key difference is that life went on relatively unchanged. That is, large-scale lock down and social distancing measures were not used. Ultimately, according to the CDC, the Hong Kong flu claimed around 1 million lives worldwide, 100,000 of which were US citizens.
Why it Matters: As the Hong Kong Flu spread across the world, America was dealing with a multitude of generational issues that would come to define the country. The decade began with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. There was a race to land a man on the moon, sexual liberation, and the civil rights movement. The virus rarely made front page news, and the heavy restrictions we’re currently experiencing didn’t exist. In fact, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first known use of the term “social-distancing” didn’t even appear until 2003. As many grow frustrated with life indoors, some are pointing to the lack of “burdensome” restrictions in 1968 as reason for normal life to resume. They have also pointed to the fact that in the summer of 1969 the Woodstock festival, which attracted 400,000 people, took place during the pandemic. Other sources have contested the implications of the statement, and they argued that Woodstock took place during the “calm” between the first and second waves in the United States.
So, What’s Changed? On June 17, 1985, Canadian musician Bryan Adams released his international hit, “Summer of ’69” in which he sings about, “the best days of [his] life.” In fact, “when [he] looks back now, that summer seemed to last forever” and “if [he] had the choice, [he’d] always wanna be there… back in the summer of ’69.” If the coronavirus continues to derail travel, keep bars and restaurants closed, and prolong social distancing, it’s hard to see the “Summer of 20” being “the best days of [our] lives.” So what changed? What’s so different between now and then?
One Theory: Nathaniel Moir, a postdoctoral candidate at Harvard University, speculates that if lockdown measures had been instituted in 1968, it’s unlikely that they would have been met with the resistance we see today. Back then, people dined out and traveled significantly less than we do now. He states, “A big part of our freak-out over COVID-19 is a reaction to everything in this country that we’ve taken for granted. When it is taken away, we lose our minds.”
Another Theory: An additional difference between now and then is the media’s business model. As we’ve mentioned before, the internet and social media forced print publications to migrate online. However, little did they know, news outlets stepped into a click-based cage match, which began rewarding sites that broke news the quickest (even if it wasn’t fully accurate) and those with the most outlandish headlines, aka, clickbait. Layer on algorithms that only show people what they want to see, and you have today’s hyper-partisan news ecosystem that caters to each side’s echo-chamber. The coronavirus has been politicized in a way that the Hong-Kong flu wasn’t. You can blame this on whoever you want, but a big factor has to do with the way modern-day media is set up to generate revenue.
What’s next: Well, the real answer is that nobody knows. If the Hong Kong flu serves as a benchmark, its important to note that it did returned during the following 1969-1970 flu season, resulting in a second, deadlier wave of deaths. In fact, it remains in circulation today as a strain of the seasonal flu. Some have warned that the coronavirus will also “never go away.” If this is true, it lends credence to those who say we can’t wait for a cure. In fact, we must resume some sense of normalcy, just like our moms, dads, and grandparents did back in the summer of 69.
🦅 US NEWS
Immunity passports’ won’t reopen America
“Antibody tests — and the apps to promote them — are gaining traction among businesses and consumers eager to know who has been exposed to the virus, raising the risk that people will be relying on faulty results to promote their immunity from the coronavirus,” Joanne Kenen reports for POLITICO. “The problem is many of the more than 120 tests on the market are inaccurate. And scientists don’t really yet understand how much immunity antibodies confer or how long it lasts.”
- Flag This: “Eventually, tools that help identify who is at less risk might be useful for redesigning workplaces or figuring out which member of a family is safest navigating the wider world. But businesses or organizations that rush to use them to promote safety and recovery can get it badly wrong — especially without government guidelines.” Keep Reading.
Immigration courts in ‘chaos,’ with coronavirus effects to last years
“Those who work in the [immigration] system say the Trump administration has handled the shutdown in an especially haphazard manner, increasing the stress on judges and attorneys in addition to immigrants and making it harder for the courts to bounce back,” SF Chronicle’s Tal Kopan writes. What’s happening: The Justice Department began postponing hearings for immigrants who are not in detention on March 18, and the delays have been extended every few weeks. Hearings are now set to resume June 15.
- Flag This: But many courts technically remain open, including the one in San Francisco, with frequently changing statuses announced on social media and a website. The scattershot communications make it difficult to prepare for if and when the hearings are held, immigrants say. And it’s worse for those who have no lawyer who can help navigate the changes. About one-third of immigrants with pending cases have no representation, according to Justice Department statistics, and missing a hearing is grounds for deportation.” Keep reading.
🌎 WORLD NEWS
Roughly one hundred countries are pushing for an independent investigation into the coronavirus pandemic, CNN reports. “A resolution drafted by the European Union will be presented at the annual meeting of World Health Organization members this week, and calls for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of “the (WHO)-coordinated international health response to Covid-19.”
- Flag This: It doesn’t mention China specifically, but all eyes are on Beijing. Chinese President Xi Jinping said he supports calls for an investigation into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic at a key summit Monday, but insisted that any inquiry should wait until the virus is contained.
- Not Again: Maybe Xi wants to wait for an investigation seeing as how it looks like he has his hands full at the moment. Some 108 million people in China’s northeast region are being plunged back under lockdown conditions as a new and growing cluster of infections causes a backslide in the nation’s return to normal.
Saudi Arabia On A Pandemic Bargain Hunt
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund has been buying stakes worth hundreds-of-millions of dollars in US companies as their share prices sink due to the coronavirus. Through its bargain hunting, the fund has taken positions in Facebook, Walt Disney, Citigroup, Boeing, Bank of America and more in an effort to diversify away from oil.
- Flag This: In other news related to the Middle Eastern kingdom, the FBI and Department of Justice said a Saudi gunman who killed three U.S. service members in an attack at a Navy air station in Florida last December had “significant ties” to al Qaeda, citing new evidence gleaned from iPhones the FBI was able to unlock. Keep reading.
🗞️ BIZ, SPORTS, & TECH
Wall Street Rallies On Vaccine Hopes
Optimistic vaccine headlines helped propel markets higher on Monday. For starters, Moderna’s early-stage human trial produced Covid-19 antibodies in all 45 participants. Additionally, AstraZeneca, a UK-based pharmaceutical company, said it’s aiming to make up to 30 million vaccine doses available by September. Lastly, President Xi Jinping told the WHO’s governing body that China will make its coronavirus vaccine a global public good once one is available.
South Korean Club Apologizes for Evidently Using Sex Dolls to Fill Empty Seats in Stadium
A South Korean soccer club has apologized after being accused of putting sex dolls in empty seats during a match. FC Seoul expressed “sincere remorse” over the controversy, but insisted in a statement that it used mannequins — not sex dolls — to mimic a home crowd during Sunday’s 1-0 win over Gwangju FC at the Seoul World Cup Stadium. Keep reading.
Unicorns Lose Their Magic
Uber is cutting 3,000 more jobs, closing dozens of offices and re-evaluating bets on freight and self-driving technology. In other news, SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son said his investment in WeWork was “foolish.” The comment comes as SoftBank gave WeWork a valuation of $2.9 billion as of March 31 based on a discounted cash flow method, down from $7.3 billion as of Dec. 31. WeWork’s private valuation was as high as $47 billion before its botched IPO last year.
📢 PRESENTED BY VINCERO
🗳️ FLAG POLLS
Results From Last Week’s Flag Poll
If there is a “second wave” of coronavirus infections, do you think the United States should implement the same lock down measures? 33% said Yes, 67% said No. Full results and comments.
This Week’s Flag Poll
Should unauthorized immigrants receive coronavirus relief funding? Click here to vote. Click here to vote.
On This Day in 1997 a three-year-old boy died of avian influenza in Hong Kong. By the time the outbreak was controlled, six people were dead and 1.6 million domestic fowl were destroyed.
Silicon Valley Rethinks the (Home) Office (WIRED)
Trip of a lifetime with no end in sight — life on small boats stuck at sea (CNN Travel)
40 years after its famed eruption, Mt. St. Helens looms as a marvel and a threat (Yahoo News)
Didn’t Even Think About This: As European soccer returns in empty stadiums, these graphs show how home advantage disappears… Answer here…