How the most profitable COVID insurance has shaped our world

On December 31, 2019, Sui-Lee Wee, a reporter in New York Times‘The Beijing office, was at the children’s museum with her young children when her phone started ringing. She opened a WhatsApp group chat and saw an article, from a local newspaper about 720 miles away in the city of Wuhan, about a mysterious disease circulating there. Wee sat down near a display of toy train tracks, in front of a rowdy group of toddlers, trying to understand what she was reading. It’s all pretty vague, since she took a few days off from work so she didn’t probe too deeply. It wasn’t until early next week that Wee intercepted a more ominous quote from a colleague in Hong Kong, where the panic started – people wearing masks, having their temperatures checked, etc. With help Supported by a researcher and another reporter from the office, Wee made a series of calls, spoke to two people who were ill but not critically ill, and then wrote Timesfirst article about the disease now known as COVID-19. You can be forgiven for missing it — the piece is buried on page 13 of the January 7 print edition. “My thing to do,” Wee recently recalled, “is, this is going to be okay. Perhaps this is just one of those strange diseases that will pass. I even emailed my editors saying this wouldn’t be a big deal.”

You can’t open today Times‘mobile app or homepage without being attacked by COVID content. Teams of reporters have been covering the pandemic almost non-stop for nearly 24 months. COVID is a frequent theme in episodes of The Daily, and the main topic of Times‘summary morning email more than once a week. There is a coronavirus live blogs, a daily coronavirus news, and all the way Interactive charts and maps track cases, deaths, vaccinations, regional trends and other data. And that’s just Time. For the unnatural presence of COVID in our media diet, consider the rate at which omicron variant stories pick up the news cycle within 24 hours of a push notification. first debuted on Thanksgiving.

As a media reporter, I am as intrigued in a way with the origins of COVID in the news ecosystem as I am with the origins of COVID itself. The difference is that one of these origins is known, a text artifact that can be traced back to this same week exactly two years ago. At that time, the vast majority of humanity was celebrating the new year, celebrating happiness and hope and renewal. The coming storm was visible only to a select few, including those who wrote the first words that appeared, on a page or screen, about the virus we now call SARS- CoV-2. Reading these stories now feels strangely bizarre, like watching it again Important news story first about the AIDS epidemic in 1981, when TimesLawrence K. Altman report about “a rare and often rapidly fatal form of cancer” in 41 gay men. One of Wee’s friends texted her last year and told her to read Altman’s story if she hadn’t already. “It’s very similar,” she told me. “You start to think, Well, all these infectious diseases started the same way.”

Wee soon learned of the story of the mysterious pneumonia-like illness in Wuhan, but she was not the first to write about it. On the evening of December 30, 2019, Marjorie Pollack was staying with her husband at their motel at the East end of Long Island. They were relaxing after dinner when Pollack, a consulting epidemiologist and deputy editor-in-chief of an email service published by the Program on Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED), received an email from a co-author. industry in Taiwan. Colleagues flagged a post on Chinese social media that contained photo of a warning is believed to have been issued by the health authority in Wuhan. With the help of several ProMED colleagues and sources in Taiwan, Pollack immediately began corroborating the document.

Before long, she found two articles in Chinese syndicated in a Beijing-based media outlet called Finance Sina. One of these is from China Business News, confirmed to the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission that the warning, “urgent notice for the treatment of pneumonia of unknown cause,” was accurate, according to a Google translation. “It is understood that the first pneumonia patient of unknown cause that appeared in Wuhan this time came from Wuhan [Huanan] Seafood market,” the article stated. “Patients with pneumonia of unknown cause did a good job of isolating and treating, not hindering other patients from coming for medical examination and treatment at medical facilities. Wuhan has the best virus research institution in the country, and the results of virus detection will be made public as soon as they are found.”

The second article, advertised as an exclusive, is from a daily newspaper called Business messenger for the 21st century. A reporter there named Chen Hongxia visited the seafood market and noticed that “the stall… where the patient with pneumonia of unknown cause was announced is closed, the scene has been quarantined, disease prevention and control and medical staff are conducting prevention and treatment. local disease”. Chen took a picture of the empty stall and Emissary published it’s with her story.

Pollack copied and pasted the Google-translated text of both articles and added her own analysis: “Involved in the control of SARS-CoV (severe acute respiratory syndrome – coronavirus) and MERS- CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome – coronavirus), the type of social media activity currently going on around the event is very reminiscent of the early ‘rumors’ that accompanied the SARS-CoV outbreak. The exception is the transparency of local authorities in responding to this undiagnosed outbreak.” Just before midnight, she hit send on a email explosion to tens of thousands of ProMED subscribers around the world. Pollack told me, “For the next few months, I had to work 20 to 21 hours a day. “I slept for up to three hours a night.”

While Pollack was compiling her ProMED report on Long Island, Sharon Sanders getting ready for bed at her home in central Florida. Around 11:40 p.m., before returning, she last checked the website she runs, FluTrackers. It was a nightly routine, but this time, something caught Sanders’ eye. A user with a family in Hong Kong has posted a link to an article from the city’s public broadcasting service, Hong Kong Television, reported that medical professionals had arrived in Wuhan to investigate a suspected outbreak of acute respiratory illness. Sanders started searching the internet and found several additional articles. One is one report from China People’s Daily newspaper. Another article, published on Sina Finance, is one minute in length videotapes that a reporter captured during a visit to the seafood market. Sanders posted stories on FluTrackers and frantically warned a colleague.

“I called Michael Coston author of the blog Avian Flu Diary at that late hour because we agreed to call each other if a very important item popped up on our desks. In 14 years, I never called him late at night,” Sanders remember for a pandemic project by two history professors at the University of Alabama. “The important thing about those media reports is their mere existence. Nothing can get past the Chinese internet firewall unless the government approves it. For a disease outbreak involving 27 people to be widely broadcast means something serious is happening. “

Over the next few days, news of the situation in Wuhan began to spread to a wider audience in English-language media. His Independence publish one posts at 2:57 p.m. New Year’s Eve. The South China Morning Post there is something at 4:59 p.m. on January 1. On January 4, the World Health Organization tweeted about the outbreak. That same day, regional newspapers across the United States, from Boston Globe arrive Fort Collins Coloradoan arrive Arizona Daily Star, carry an AP news agency story reported that “the number of cases of a new viral pneumonia linked to a food market in central China has increased to 44.… The most common symptoms were fever, shortness of breath, and lung infections appearing in a ‘small number’ of cases.… To date, there is no clear indication of human-to-human transmission. ”

Until Wee’s January 6 article in Times that the story gained a great national background. But even then, it will be a slow burn until the word “coronavirus” hits the media, as it did later that month and the next. On January 8, Wee co-authorised a story with Donald McNeil Jr., then a star health reporter at Time, reports that Chinese researchers have identified the new virus. That same week, some Times‘top editors from New York, including Joe Kahn, Michael Slackman, and Ellen Pollock, was in Hong Kong for the newspaper’s annual Asia Hands-On meeting. The discovery of a new coronavirus is big news, but it didn’t even make it to the list of key topics editors and reporters raised during the meeting as reporting goals for next year. . Wee recalls: “Everybody just moved on. “The main themes are climate change, demographics, gender. I have prepared a long list of ideas about demographics in China and social issues that I would like to cover.” How the most profitable COVID insurance has shaped our world


TaraSubramaniam is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. TaraSubramaniam joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button