A midweek respite that seemed to indicate a slowdown in cases of COVID-19, the coronavirus that originated late last year in Wuhan, China, came to a halt on Thursday.
A change in how China’s Hubei Province, which is home to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, is diagnosing the virus led to a sharp upswing in the number of cases — and a series of revised figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday.
Health authorities in Hubei Province are now counting cases that have been diagnosed solely by a computed tomography (CT) scan, not a combination of a CT scan and an RNA test. The most recent update from China’s National Health Commission states there were 15,152 new cases, a sevenfold increase over the 2,015 new cases that had been reported the day before.
Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, told reporters that he understands that the latest case numbers from China are retrospective. “We’re not dealing with a spike in cases in one day,” he said, later calling the numbers “after-the-fact reporting.”
There are a total of 1,369 deaths and 46,997 cases, as confirmed by laboratory tests, according to a revised update from the WHO. Ryan confirmed that the second ex-China death has been reported, in Japan. Earlier on Thursday, WHO had said there are 60,329 cases worldwide, which would take into account the data released by China that accounts for CT-based diagnoses.
“Hubei Province has added a ‘clinical diagnosis case’ classification to identify suspected cases with pneumonia imaging features as clinical diagnosis cases,” China’s National Health Commission said in a translated statement on its website.
Cowen analysts said that “CT scans have been in use in Hubei for at least the last week as a faster, more readily available, and possibly more accurate method of testing.” They also cautioned that the change in case reporting metrics “significantly hurts confidence in the official China disclosures.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that a quarantined individual in Texas is the fifteenth confirmed case of COVID-19 in the U.S. The individual had returned from China on a U.S. State Department flight on Feb. 7. On Wednesday, the CDC had confirmed the fourteenth case, of a quarantined individual in San Diego who had also returned to the U.S. on a Feb. 7 flight. That makes two quarantined individuals at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego and one at Joint Base San Antonio in Lackland, Texas.
“The first and second patients arrived on different planes and were housed in separate facilities; there are no epidemiologic links between them,” the CDC said in a statement.
About 600 U.S. nationals are currently quarantined after returning from Wuhan on state flights.
Here’s how companies have been impacted by COVID-19:
• Ralph Lauren Corp. RL, -2.01% said fiscal 2020 sales could be hurt by up to $70 million and operating income in Asia could take a $35 million to $45 million hit as a result of the outbreak. Two-thirds of the luxury retailer’s mainland China stores have been closed over the past week, and about half of its stores were closed the previous week.
• IQVIA Inc. IQV, -0.77%, which operates clinical trials, including in China, said it expects a $25 million impact in the first quarter as a result of the outbreak. “The patients who are enrolled in a trial are simply not going to visit the hospitals where all the sites are in China because that’s kind of the more dangerous spot right now,” CEO Ari Bousbib told investors during an earnings call.
• Airbus SE said that while its plants in China have restarted, Chinese airlines have said they plan to postpone aircraft deliveries. “On the very short term that has to defer the deliveries,” an Airbus executive told investors on an earnings call.
• Alpha Pro Tech Ltd. APT, +12.03%, which makes disposable protective apparel, said it has booked $10.4 million in orders for respirator face masks since Jan. 27, “representing roughly 24 times the revenue that we have recorded from sales of this product for each year since 2016,” CEO Lloyd Hoffman said in a statement. Although the company has ramped up production, order backlogs continue to increase in dollar amount and fulfillment time. “We expect to fulfill approximately 30% of the currently booked orders in the first quarter of 2020,” Hoffman said.
Additional reported by Tomi Kilgore and Tonya Garcia
Read more MarketWatch coverage of COVID-19:
Dow futures retreat as number of coronavirus cases takes a surprise jump
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Alibaba earnings top expectations but coronavirus questions linger
European stocks slump as China reports spate of new virus cases