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February, 2020

Vice President Mike Pence will lead the US response to the COVID-19 outbreak

In an early-evening press conference, President Donald Trump tapped Vice President Mike Pence to lead the U.S. response to the COVID-19 outbreak that has spread through Europe, Asia and Latin America.

The new coronavirus strain, which has infected about 81,000 people around the world and killed 3,000, has already wrought havoc on the global economy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned yesterday that the U.S. will likely not be able to escape the spread of the virus.

“It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses,” said Dr. Nancy Messonier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in a press conference given by the Centers for Disease Control on Tuesday. “Disruption to everyday life might be severe.”

Earlier this evening, California reported its first case of community transmission, which was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control, according to The New York Times. That’s a case where an infected person was not exposed to anyone known to be infected with the virus and had not traveled to countries where the virus had spread.

Speaking alongside Pence; Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Dr. Anthony Fauci; and principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control Dr. Anne Schuchat, the President stressed that the U.S. government was “very, very ready” to respond to the disease.

Vice President Pence said that the White House would continue to work closely with state and local officials, add additional personnel and work with Congress to ensure that the necessary resources are available. “The threat to the American public remains low,” Pence said.

The White House is asking Congress for $2.5 billion to support efforts to stop the spread of the virus in the U.S. while Senate Democrats led by Chuck Schumer have put an $8.5 billion price tag on the coronavirus fight.

Secretary Azar outlined five areas where the government would look to spend money including: monitor the spread of the virus, cooperate with local governments, develop therapeutics, develop vaccines, and manufacture and purchase personal protective equipment.

Diagnosing the illness has been a particular problem for the U.S. According to multiple reports, the CDC isn’t prepared to test for a potentially rapidly expanding number of cases in the U.S.

Only 12 of the 100 public health labs in the U.S. are able to diagnose the coronavirus because of problems with a test developed by the CDC, according to a Politico report.

Better diagnostics tools are going to be one of the critical areas where startups could play a role in combating the spread of the virus.

“Where startups are going to make contributions is in detection, monitoring, epidemiological predictions, sequencing, supply chain [and] distribution logistics,” wrote James Birch, an entrepreneur and former researcher with the American College of Surgeons.

Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Administration chief and an investor with New Enterprise Associates, has advocated for the expansion of Emergency Use Authorizations from the organization he used to lead as a way to respond to the need for more, better diagnostic tests.

The lack of effective tests available to public health facilities calls into question exactly how prepared the government is for the potential health crisis. In fact, the White House got rid of the pandemic response group in the Administration in a cost-cutting measure in 2018.

Also troubling to some healthcare observers is Pence’s own track record when it comes to healthcare crises.

As governor of Indiana, Pence’s inaction led to an outbreak of HIV in one of the state’s more rural counties, according to a report in HuffPost. As drug use soared in the state during the opioid crisis, addicts in the county were also becoming infected with the virus because they were sharing needles. Pence opposed a needle-sharing program, which could have limited the spread of the virus.

Fears about how the new coronavirus would impact the economy rattled stock markets earlier this week as news of the disease’s spread to Europe were confirmed. The market’s slide and the political response in Washington played a role in the president’s decision to hold a press conference today, judging by the president’s own Twitter account.

Etsy sellers are furious over new mandatory ad fees

Etsy sellers are furious over new mandatory ad fees

Etsy sellers are furious about the website’s new advertising scheme, which will impose huge fees on some sales. What’s worse, certain users aren’t even allowed to opt out.

Etsy announced two new updates to its advertising model in a February 26 blog post. Firstly, the ecommerce website is removing Google Shopping ads from its current advertising tool Etsy Ads, meaning sellers who use it will only have advertised listings on Etsy. The changes take effect immediately, so it’s particularly disappointing for sellers already in the middle of advertising campaigns.

However, Etsy won’t stop advertising on Google entirely, which brings us to its second, much more controversial change: the introduction of Offsite Ads. Read more…

More about Advertising, Ecommerce, Etsy, Commerce, and Fees

‘Lizzie McGuire’ reboot’s future is in jeopardy. What now?

'Lizzie McGuire' reboot's future is in jeopardy. What now?

Rebooting a beloved series is inherently tricky business, but revitalizing aughts sitcom Lizzie McGuire has proved messier than most. 

Parting ways with original series creator and showrunner Terri Minsky, the Disney+ production ground to a halt with limited explanation and no new leader in sight earlier this year. In January, a spokesperson told multiple outlets that Minsky had completed two episodes but that Disney execs had concluded there was a “need to move in a different creative direction.” 

On Tuesday night, star Hilary Duff — who teased the Disney+ series as a mature continuation of her now thirty-something character’s life at D23 last year — made a post to her Instagram Story that seemed to reveal more about the show’s turmoil. Read more…

More about Hilary Duff, Disney Plus, Lizzie Mcguire, Lizzie Mcguire Reboot, and Entertainment