• Business

    China Is Reopening Its Wet Markets. That's Good

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Here's one more issue to add to the bonfire of tensions with China brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The country is reportedly reopening its wet markets, the fresh produce stalls associated with Covid-19's early spread in Wuhan.It's understandable that countries now in the grip of the first wave of infection might be outraged. Many blame wet markets for starting the outbreak in the first place. Opening them again, at a moment when thousands are dying overseas, seems emblematic of Beijing's increasingly chauvinistic approach to world affairs.Animals in wet markets are penned and slaughtered or sold live right next to stalls selling fruit and vegetables. Conditions, as my colleague Adam Minter has written, are often less than hygienic.Places where a range of common and exotic animals mix together while bodily fluids flow freely may seem a fertile breeding ground for the virulent novel diseases that cross the species barrier to humans and occasionally become pandemics.At the same time, let’s put the outrage on pause. Wet markets are increasingly losing ground to supermarkets in China. If they're showing resilience as suppliers of fresh goods, it's precisely because consumers regard them as a healthier and more sustainable alternative.That perception isn't inaccurate. The prevalence of food-borne microbial illness in developing East Asia suggests that far from being cesspits of disease, wet markets do a good job of providing households with clean, fresh produce. And while the origins of coronavirus remain obscure, they may have at least as much to do with more worldwide activities such as intensive farming as practices specific to Asia.The attraction of wet markets isn't so different from that of farmers’ markets in Western countries. In contrast to a supermarket model where multiple layers of retailers, wholesalers and logistics companies stand in between the consumer and the grower, wet markets offer a personal and direct connection between shopper, stallholder and farmer.Consumers know the food is fresh because there's generally little refrigeration, so everything must be sold on the day. If in doubt, they can ask the stallholder what's in season and which produce is best at the moment. If they think one market looks unsanitary, they can choose to shop at another.That helps explain how wet markets have managed to hold their own in spite of the growth of store-based retail in recent years. Supermarkets now account for about half of all grocery spending in China, up from about 36% in 1995, according to Euromonitor International. Add in convenience stores and the like and so-called modern grocery has about 68% of China's retail wallet, giving wet markets less than a third.Still, that store-based spending is overwhelmingly concentrated in packaged, rather than fresh produce. Foreign retailers that once hoped to dominate China's staple goods sector such as Carrefour SA and Metro AG have struggled and sold out of local ventures — but wet markets are still going strong.The evidence suggests this consumer loyalty isn’t misplaced. One 2015 study for the World Health Organization compared the number of years of life lost per 100,000 people due to food-borne sickness, disability and death. The region encompassing the wet market zone from China and South Korea down through most of Southeast Asia has the best record for microbial infections outside the Americas, Europe and the rich countries of the Pacific Rim.(1)What about Covid-19 itself, though? There's good evidence that the virus has genetic characteristics from another pathogen found in pangolins, an exotic mammal sometimes sold in Chinese markets. And it circulated extensively around one of Wuhan's seafood and meat markets last December, although the earliest infections don't seem to have been connected to the site.Only a small minority of wet markets sell such exotica, though, so you can close down the wild animal trade without shutting the places where most Chinese people get their daily sustenance. And don't overlook the possibility that a key ingredient in Covid-19's genetic cocktail isn’t wild game, but domesticated livestock. The high-density conditions on farms are far more conducive to cooking up novel diseases, as we've written — and even pangolins are farmed in China these days.To the extent that the mix of the raw and the cooked in Asia's wet markets is a health problem, it can easily be mitigated by better building design (such as separating meat, vegetable and livestock areas and keeping markets fully enclosed), plus the sort of mandated cleaning regulations found in places like Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.There's plenty to complain about in the way that China downplayed and hushed up the initial outbreak until it was all but inevitable it would become a worldwide pandemic. Closing all wet markets, though, isn't the solution. (1) Indeed, the data suggest the problem with Asia's appetite for "warm meat" isn't that fresh-slaughtered produce is less healthy than the chilled meat from an abattoir, but that local preferences for undercooked meat and fish lead to unusually high burdens of tapeworms, flukes and other parasitic worms. That's not something different retail formats can solve.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.David Fickling is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering commodities, as well as industrial and consumer companies. He has been a reporter for Bloomberg News, Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Guardian.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Business
    Yahoo Finance

    'It's unfathomable': Fitness companies describe how coronavirus derailed the booming industry

    Boutique fitness studios and fitness franchises across the U.S. are among the industries feeling the financial blow from the coronavirus.

  • World
    The Week

    'Ventilators' donated by Elon Musk can't be used on coronavirus patients, health officials say

    Elon Musk's ventilator giveaway may do more harm than good.After weeks of brushing off the COVID-19 pandemic as "dumb," the billionaire Tesla founder earlier this week announced he had 1,000 "FDA-approved ventilators" and ended up donating 40 to New York City's hospital system. Except the devices Musk gave away aren't powerful enough to use in the ICU, and health officials have actually warned against using them on COVID-19 patients because they could spread the virus further.What Musk purchased and gave to New York's hospitals were BiPAP machines made by ResMed, a photo shared by the hospital system reveals. ResMed CEO Mick Farrell later confirmed Musk's purchase of 1,000 5-year-old "bi-level, non-invasive ventilators" known as BiPAPs to CNBC, and said it was "fantastic" that Tesla could transport ResMed's product like it did.But hospitals are far more desperate for ventilators more invasive than BiPAP and CPAP machines, which are usually used to treat sleep apnea — many doctors don't even call them "ventilators," the Los Angeles Times' Russ Mitchell reports. In fact, CPAP machines may have only helped spread COVID-19 through the nursing home outside Seattle that was the center of the U.S.'s initial coronavirus outbreak, NPR reports. These machines can "possibly increase the spread of infectious disease by aerosolizing the virus," NPR writes. Health officials in King County, Washington, have since warned against using CPAP machines on coronavirus patients, as did the American Society of Anesthesiologists back in February.What would actually help, Farrell added to CNBC, is if Musk's Tesla could produce and donate lithium ion batteries — ResMed can use them to make invasive ventilators that hospitals actually need.More stories from theweek.com Social distancing is going to get darker 5 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's TV ratings boast Jared Kushner suggests voters 'think about who will be a competent manager during the time of crisis'

  • Health
    Good Morning America

    Protect your face during coronavirus with these easy DIY face covers

    As Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti Wednesday recommended citizens to wear face coverings while in public amid coronavirus, medical professionals are weighing in about the benefits of wearing them. “At this point, there really seems to be no question that everybody should be wearing a mask to protect themselves and more importantly, to protect their community,” Jeremy Howard, research scientist at the University of San Francisco said, “when you’re talking bits of saliva come out of your mouth, you don’t even see them.” While the use of masks becomes the new normal and medical professionals like Howard recommend to use them while in public, the reality is that it is almost impossible to find just one to purchase.

  • U.S.

    Gretchen Whitmer Reveals The Real Reason Michigan Is Facing A Coronavirus Crisis

    Efforts are underway in states across the country to combat the novel coronavirus, which has seen hot spots in New Orleans, Chicago, New York, and Seattle. The city of Detroit is the latest to become a hotbed for the virus, where 35 people have died of COVID-19 in less than two weeks. Across the state, at least 197 residents have died, making Michigan the fourth state in the nation with the highest death rate, The New York Times reported. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been taking extensive actions to combat the quick outbreak across the city and state. Last week, the governor sent a sweeping list of demands to the White House to address the social weight of the outbreak. The governor asked for disaster unemployment, crisis counseling, an expansion of SNAP, rental assistance, and much more. This week, Gov. Whitmer signed an executive order extending the state of emergency and declaring a state of disaster, which may provide more resources to address the socioeconomic burdens people are facing at this time. Due to a lack of personal protective equipment — a national emergency right now for people on the frontlines of the pandemic — first responders in Detroit are also falling ill to the virus. One fifth of the police force is in quarantine, following the recent deaths of the city’s homicide chief and jailhouse commander. Detroit’s level of deindustrialization might also make the city a unique case when it comes to the pandemic. The problem with the coronavirus outbreak across Michigan, and especially in cities like Detroit, is not just how it’s spread, but why, according to the governor. And one big reason for that is poverty. “We know poverty is a pre-existing condition,” Gov. Whitmer said during an appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Wednesday night. For people who can’t meet their basic human needs, this crisis becomes even more urgent, as access to health care is out of reach for many, but so are basic needs like food and housing. “All of our focus has to be on meeting the needs of our people right now. People are dying,” said Whitmer.  Detroit’s poverty rate is 35 percent, according to the Detroit Partnership on Economic Mobility at the University of Michigan. That’s almost three times the national average, which means many residents can’t afford to take time off if they’re already living paycheck to paycheck. People living in Detroit also experience high rates of chronic health conditions, including asthma, which make residents more vulnerable to the coronavirus. The prevalence of asthma among adults living in Detroit was 29 percent higher than in the state as a whole, with Black residents facing higher rates of asthma hospitalizations, according to a 2016 report from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. These “pre-existing” socioeconomic conditions, as Whitmer might call them, are both exacerbated by and risk aggravating the growing public health crisis, as residents face utility shutoffs, rent burdens, and inaccessible health care, putting communities at greater risk. At a time when hand washing has been deemed an essential way to prevent the spread of the virus, especially to those at higher risk, people across the city are experiencing water shutoffs for not paying utilities. City officials have since promised to restore water service in hundreds of homes, as activists continue to call on public officials to quickly address the problem.  Some residents say this also makes it harder to convince people to stay home. “If we’re hungry, or trying to find rent, [coronavirus is] going on the back burner” said Dale Rich, a photographer and Detroit resident The New York Times.Whitmer acknowledged this, calling it a “sacrifice” for people to do their part and stay home. This is why, she told Noah, “it’s so important that we make it easier for people to stay home if they’re worried about paying their bills, or worried about putting food on the table.” The governor is asking volunteers to come to Michigan and help meet the needs of the hardest hit communities in the state. “It’s gotta be all hands on deck and we are a hot spot right now.” Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Gretchen Whitmer Claps Back At Donald TrumpNancy Pelosi Slams Trump For This COVID-19 CommentNY Sees Surge In Hate Crimes Against Asian People