- Coronavirus fears cancel world’s biggest physics meeting
- Independent decision
- Opinion: 5 reasons coronavirus fears are overblown — and 14 stocks to buy now
- 2. The lockdown affects a small part of China
- 3. The breakout happened at an opportune time
- 4. The public typically tends to overreact to health threats
- 5. Any economic impact will be short lived
- What stocks to buy
- Coronavirus: Separating the Facts from Fear
- Contact the COVID-19 Hotline
- Stay CALM and Stay Singing River STRONG
Coronavirus fears cancel world’s biggest physics meeting
Stacked boxes of conference programmes lie unopened at the cancelled American Physical Society meeting.Credit: Davide Castelvecchi/Nature
One of the world’s biggest scientific conferences — the March Meeting of the American Physical Society (APS) — has been cancelled little more than a day before it was scheduled to begin in Denver, Colorado, for fear of contributing to the spread of coronavirus. Although many physicists have been left stranded by the unprecedented decision, some would-be attendees are finding ways to share their talks virtually.
“At first, it was just a shock,” says Nicholas Drachman, a graduate student who works on protein sequencing at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. “It was clear it wasn’t a joke, but it just seemed such late notice that we were all very surprised.” The week-long meeting is the biggest on the physics calendar, and more than 11,000 people had been registered to attend.
Drachman and hundreds of other registered participants had already arrived in Denver on 29 February, when they received an e-mail from the APS.
The 2020 March Meeting was being called off “due to rapidly escalating health concerns relating to the spread of the coronavirus disease”, the communiqué said.
“Please do not travel to Denver to attend the March Meeting.” The conference was scheduled to start 36 hours later, on 2 March.
“I understand the cancellation: having 11,000 people in one place is a risk,” says Toma Susi, another physicist who had arrived on 29 February.
“What I question is, what has changed in the last 24 hours?” Susi, who manipulates single atoms with scanning transmission electron microscopy at the University of Vienna, was scheduled to give an invited talk about early-career grants disbursed by the European Research Council.
Because his hotel room was non-refundable and changing his flight would have been prohibitively expensive, Susi has decided to stay in Denver for the rest of the week. He says he will take advantage of the opportunity to network with colleagues, despite the cancellation. (On 1 March, some local bars were offering a free drink to stranded physicists.
) But he feels that staying in Denver also carries some risks, as the coronavirus crisis evolves. The virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, has begun spreading rapidly in several places outside China in the past week, and national health systems are racing to contain escalating outbreaks.
“One concern is that flight travel gets blocked completely,” he says.
Some researchers have found creative ways to get the word out about their research, despite the cancellation.
Leigh Martin, who works on quantum-sensing technology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, plans to record a video of the talk he was due give in Denver. He will then upload it to virtualmarchmeeting.
com, a website that another physicist quickly set up for this purpose. The APS itself says it will provide a platform for sharing presentations, and is asking registrants to submit links to their talks.
And at least one of the society’s divisions, for soft-matter research, has planned a series of web-streamed seminars matching its original talk schedule, to serve as a virtual conference.
“It was clear that nothing formal was possible, recreating the whole meeting virtually,” so speakers were invited to post their own links to an online spreadsheet, says Karen Daniels, a physicist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh who is leading the effort. “This was all possible because there is a large enough presence among our membership to have gotten it started.” Several other APS divisions are considering similar initiatives, Daniels told Nature.
Daniels was able to cancel her own travel plans in time, but a number of participants in Denver are holding informal get-togethers within their disciplines, she says, a practice often referred to as unconferencing.
The APS leadership took its decision to cancel the conference independently, and had not communicated directly with US authorities such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), APS chief executive Kate Kirby said at a press conference on 1 March. “The decision was made just considering what we felt to be the risk,” she said.
A major factor, said Kirby, was the CDC’s decision on last week to upgrade Italy and South Korea to the highest level of travel warning, which includes a recommendation to avoid all non-essential trips.
As a consequence, at least 500 participants were scheduled to arrive from countries that are now a “hotspot for contagion”, Kirby said — but she added that she did not know how many participants from ‘at risk’ countries had already flown to Denver.
(Hundreds of participants from China had already cancelled their trips, the APS has said.) The society says it will refund registration fees to all paying participants.
And the APS is not alone: there are reports of several other scientific conferences being cancelled because of coronavirus disruption. These include a meeting this week of the European Society for Medical Oncology in Paris, and the European Lunar Symposium, planned for mid-May in Padua, Italy. The lunar meeting will now be an online-only conference.
Rather than hanging around in Denver, Martin cancelled his hotel and changed his flight to return home right away — although he’s heard that some attendees are taking advantage of the nearby Rocky Mountains. “Everyone else is either going skiing or going back home.”
Opinion: 5 reasons coronavirus fears are overblown — and 14 stocks to buy now
Investor fears about the coronavirus are overblown.
So Monday’s biggest one-day percentage declines since early October in the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.46% and the S&P 500 index SPX, +0.55% on coronavirus fears have created nice buying opportunities in 14 stocks with lots of exposure to China.
Before we get to those, here are five reasons why investors are panicking too much about coronavirus.
The big unknown here is how deadly and contagious coronavirus is. No one really knows, but medical experts at Johns Hopkins are downplaying the threat from 2019-nCoV, the name for the type of coronavirus grabbing headlines.
“The immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general public in the United States is thought to be low at this time,” says Gabor Kelen, a medical doctor and director of the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response.
Even if coronavirus turns out to be as contagious and deadly as really bad contagious diseases Ebola, it will most ly be successfully curbed. The Ebola outbreak a few years ago was effectively kept in check, and so were the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2003-04, and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak early last decade.
“All three outbreaks were contained before they could have a significant impact on the global economy or financial markets around the world,” says Ed Yardeni, of Yardeni Research. “We expect the same outcome with the current outbreak.”
The good news is that health officials learned a lot about containing virus outbreaks from those three experiences.
“Health technology has advanced considerably,” says Andrew Tilton, the chief Asia economist at Goldman Sachs. “Chinese authorities have already sequenced the virus and shared it with the global health community, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control have just developed a test for the virus.”
Another positive is that public awareness seems to be much higher, because of the more rapid ofﬁcial response in China and the internet and social media, says Tilton. Local authorities in China reported SARS quickly in early January 2003. But up the chain of command, officials dragged their feet. The ﬁrst official press conference on SARS did not happen until Feb. 11.
Read:CDC officials say coronavirus is similar to SARS, no new U.S. cases reported
2. The lockdown affects a small part of China
But what about the lockdown? Even if coronavirus is contained, won’t the lockdown have a big impact on China’s economy? Probably not, at least as things stand now. The cities locked down are all near Wuhan, in Hubei province, where coronavirus originated. So far, the lockdown affects only around 60 million people a population of 1.4 billion.
wise, Hubei province only produces about 4.7% of China’s overall GDP, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of China.
Read:3 reasons coronavirus won’t derail China’s economy
3. The breakout happened at an opportune time
China’s economy was about to wind down anyway for the Chinese New Year celebration when the outbreak occured. So productivity was already scheduled to take a seasonal dip.
To the extent that the virus in China creates domestic fear and unrest, or hurts the economy, it weakens China’s Premier Xi Jinping’s hand in tariff negotiations with the U.S. This suggests and easier path toward progress, which would be a positive for business confidence and the U.S. stock market.
Of course, the bad news here is that a lot more people in China have travel plans around the New Year. This could make the virus spread more quickly.
4. The public typically tends to overreact to health threats
Whenever there’s a new virus outbreak, people are egged on by the media echo chamber, which latches on to the story and repeats it ad nauseum, drilling fear and concern into the minds of investors and the general public a. The same thing happens on social media, where rumors can spread unchecked.
This amplifies the perception of risk, but not the risk itself. At some point and perhaps soon, the media and will move on to the next story of the day, and coronavirus fears will ease.
The echo chamber impact was compounded by the following problem: Investor sentiment was extremely high going into this (both the Dow and the S&P set the latest in a string of records on Jan.
17), which made the market more vulnerable to “bad news” and negative headlines. Overconfident investors are convinced that nothing can go wrong.
So when something negative crops up, they’re surprised and they feel betrayed, which escalates their selling.
Part of the exaggerated reaction to coronavirus is linked to the fact that it is new, and emanating from a foreign country. The fears about it seem irrational, if you consider the following contrasts. So far, coronavirus has claimed fewer than 100 lives. SARS, which also sparked widespread panic and investor selling, claimed hundreds of lives, and fewer than 10,000 cases were reported.
In contrast, other flu viruses in circulation in the U.S. last year took over 34,000 lives, and they are taking a similar toll this year. Yet un coronavirus and SARS, these flu viruses have had zero impact on the stock market. This suggests the current hysteria developing about coronavirus is irrational.
Read:As fifth coronavirus case is confirmed in the U.S. — this is how the illness has spread across the world so rapidly
5. Any economic impact will be short lived
Coronavirus fears could hit travel globally, and produce a decline in consumer spending in Asia and the U.S. But the effect tends to wear off pretty fast. “These retrenchments in spending are short-lived as consumers eventually get frugal fatigue,” says Jay Bryson, acting chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities.
One fear is that there could be enough of a pullback in consumer spending and travel to hit economic growth. But again, the effect will probably be limited. “The negative impact on growth and asset prices from viral outbreaks typically normalizes within a few months,” says Tilton at Goldman Sachs.
“The outbreak of the coronavirus could drive large swings in Mainland China and emerging Asia growth in the first half but a much smaller impact on full-year growth, if the SARS episode is any guide,” says JP Morgan economist Bruce Kasman.
Several recent developments will continue support the economy and the stock market, says Baird chief investment strategist Bruce Bittles. He cites recent progress on U.S.-China trade talks, an accommodative Federal Reserve, low interest rates, and muted inflation. “We don’t expect these factors supporting investor confidence and consumer spending to change anytime soon,” he says.
Read:Economic hit from coronavirus ly to be short lived, but it’s still ‘a little scary, frankly’
What stocks to buy
All of this suggest stocks hit particularly hard because they have exposure to China look buys here.
Take Royal Caribbean Cruises RCL, -0.62%, for example.
“If history is any guide, the weakness in Royal’s stock could present a compelling buying opportunity as consumers have been fairly quick to shrug off illness outbreaks in recent years,” says William Blair analyst Sharon Zackfia. The cruise industry actually did better after the SARS outbreak and “more recent outbreaks such as Zika or Ebola have had no discernible impact on cruise demand,” she says.
Also consider U.S. companies getting hit hard in the past few days because of China exposure. They include: Starbucks SBUX, +0.86%, Walt Disney DIS, -1.85%, Nike NKE, +2.29%, Estée Lauder EL, +0.85%, Wynn Resorts WYNN, -2.
01%, Las Vegas Sands LVS, -1.17%, Marriott International MAR, -1.62%, Hyatt Hotels H, -1.77%, Yum China Holdings YUMC, -1.84%, IMAX IMAX, -4.76%, PVH PVH, +1.77%, Tapestry TPR, -1.70%, and GreenTree Hospitality Group GHG, +1.
Read:These U.S. stocks are down the most as the coronavirus spreads
Of course, if there’s a massive coronavirus outbreak in China, all bets are off, but that’s not my base case. To track the progress, see this map from Johns Hopkins.
Now read:Your 6-point plan to navigating a choppy stock market
At the time of publication, Michael Brush had no positions in any stocks mentioned in this column. During the past 10 years, Brush has suggested RCL, SBUX, WYNN, DIS, MAR and H in his stock newsletter Brush Up on Stocks.
Coronavirus: Separating the Facts from Fear
CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19): LATEST UPDATES
We advise you to stay informed with reliable sources of information, take everyday actions to protect yourself and those you love, and share accurate information with neighbors, friends and co-workers, especially people who may have difficulty receiving or understanding the information.
It is normal to be scared, distressed or angry when you hear about a disease outbreak, even when you are at a low risk of getting sick. Be careful not to turn fear and anger towards people who may become sick or healthcare workers.
Click to download a printable Facts Not Fears version.
Hand washing is not completely effective. I need to have alcohol hand sanitizers to protect myself.
Hand washing with soap and water is the most effective way to eliminate contagion.
Sing your favorite song for 20 seconds.
The only way to prevent catching COVID-19 is to wear a face mask.
People who show symptoms of COVID-19 should use face masks to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
There are very well-established scientific guidelines for when hospital employees and others need to wear personal protective equipment. Social distancing and not touching your face is a more effective way to protect yourself.
A common way to get COVID-19 is from another person touching me.
Self-contamination is more ly, as the average person touches their own face 90 times per day. Pretend you have a dog cone on your face.
Don’t touch your face!
The virus is most ly spread from sharing the same air.
COVID-19 is most ly spread when people are in close contact with an infected person (within about 6 feet), spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes and those droplets make their way into another person’s mouth, nose or eyes. This means spit and snot are the main culprit, not air.
Individuals must watch and read everything about COVID-19 to stay well informed and protect their families.
Too much media exposure can heighten one’s anxiety. You get what you need, and leave the rest. Stay informed through valid resources the CDC but without overdoing it.
Just sugar or alcohol, anything in excess including too much TV/Internet is bad for you, both mentally and physically.
I am young and do not need to worry about where I travel or my hand hygiene or Coronavirus.
Many of our residents are over age 60 or disabled, so it is critical that we work together to protect this population from infection.
Do your part to be safe and protect others: wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and practice social distancing.
It’s not always about you. It is more for them than you in most cases.
People are more contagious after they have had it for a week.
People are most contagious when they are most symptomatic (first 2 days of symptoms).
Someone who has completed quarantine or has been released from isolation does not pose a higher risk of infection to other people.
Children are most at risk, which is why school is out.
Children are probably at slightly less risk to have ill effects unless they have an underlying condition asthma.
However, they can be most ly to spread it to vulnerable adults because they are less ly to show symptoms and not wash their hands properly.
Cough or fever most ly indicates you have COVID-19.
It is far more ly that patients with cough or fever symptoms have an illness other than COVID-19 such as the flu, strep throat or pneumonia.
Before testing for Coronavirus, other viruses and illnesses should be ruled out first.
The new coronavirus is man-made as part of a conspiracy.
COVID-19 can be traced back to bats, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and many patients in Wuhan, China, were linked to a large seafood and live animal market.
Hospitalization is recommended for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19.
People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness.
Illness can be severe and require hospitalization, but most individuals recover by resting, drinking plenty of liquids, and taking pain and fever-reducing medications. (See CDC on what to do if diagnosed.)
COVID-19 is usually deadly.
Data suggests more than 80% of cases result in mild symptoms.
Those with other existing medical vulnerabilities (chronic medical conditions autoimmune disorders, high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes) are at the greatest risk for severe disease if infected with COVID-19.
Coronavirus is the deadliest virus known to man.
Although COVID-19 does appear to be more serious than influenza, it is absolutely not the deadliest virus that people have faced. Others, such as Ebola, Bubonic Plague, Smallpox, and many others have had much higher mortality rates.
Prepare for the worst and buy everything needed right now.
While preparedness is good, going to this extreme is not without harm. Hoarding can deprive those who are in crucial need, the elderly, healthcare providers and those medically vulnerable.
Focus on acting reason and rationality, not fear and panic. Those things could do more harm than the threat the virus poses. Still being kind to those around you can be uplifting in this unsettling time.
You can protect yourself from COVID-19 by swallowing or gargling with bleach, taking acetic acid or steroids, or using essential oils, salt water, ethanol or other substances.
None of these recommendations protects you from getting COVID-19, and some of these practices may be dangerous. Swallowing bleach can kill you faster than the Coronavirus.
The best ways to protect yourself from this coronavirus (and other viruses) include: washing your hands frequently with soap and water, not touching your face, practice social distancing and especially avoid close contact with people who are sick, coughing and sneezing. You can avoid spreading germs by coughing into the crook of your elbow and staying home when you are sick.
The virus stays on a surface even after it is cleaned.
The virus is actually “not hardy” and can be effectively inactivated from surfaces with a solution of either alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or bleach (please do not mix these chemicals), in just one minute. It is not certain how long it stays on surfaces, but it is not long.
Hospitals are going to shut down due to lack of supplies.
This is America. Most will be able to figure things out or at least seek support from other health system partners.
Capitalism, competition, and innovation will prevail. The silver lining is that necessity is the mother of innovation.
This will thin out the population.
More ly, there will be a baby boom in approximately nine months.
The Coronavirus is bright red with blue tentacles, fluorescent green, glowing orange or horror dirty brown.
The scary colors are added or enhanced by media for effect.
If they give me the flu shot, it might give me the flu.
Getting the flu shot does not give you the flu. There is proven science behind this fact. Also, while it doesn’t prevent the flu every single time, if 80% of the people who would have otherwise gotten the flu did not, that makes more testing and care time available for those who might have things the Coronavirus.
Also, it will save you from both being sick with the flu and from worrying about what your symptoms are if it prevents you from getting the flu. And if you are high risk, it could actually save your life.
A common way to get COVID-19 is from drinking Corona beer.
Drinking enough beer to elevate your blood alcohol level could be dangerous for other reasons.
This could be the end of the world.
As with all past outbreaks, this one will eventually come to an end before we do. If anything, this shows why vaccinations are so important.
Humanity will survive.
Contact the COVID-19 Hotline
If you are concerned that you may have COVID-19, please call one of our Singing River Medical Clinics to be screened over the phone by a licensed medical provider.
Stay CALM and Stay Singing River STRONG