Here’s what you need to know about the impact of Covid-19 to navigate the markets today.
• The state of Covid-19 testing in the U.S. is “mind-blowing,”
founder and philanthropist Bill Gates said Sunday in an interview on CNN. “You’re paying billions of dollars in this very inequitable way to get the most worthless test results of any country in the world,” Gates said. “No other country has this testing insanity.” He blamed the problems with the American testing regime on early mistakes followed by an unwillingness on the part of the federal government to improve testing “because they just want to say how great everything is.” One particular fix Gates said he suggested to the federal government that went unheeded was to deny reimbursement to any test provider that takes more than 3 days to return results to a patient. Right now, he pointed out, commercial testing companies have an incentive to test as many people as they can with no regard for how quickly they can turn around results, because they are being reimbursed by the government based on how many tests they complete, even if they results aren’t timely and therefore, not useful for people receiving them.
• New Zealand has now gone 100 days without a reported case of domestically transmitted Covid-19, it’s Director General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said Sunday. The island nation’s response to the coronavirus has been one of the most successful in the world, but Dr. Bloomfield warned that the country could not become complacent. “We have seen overseas how quickly the virus can re-emerge and spread in places where it was previously under control, and we need to be prepared to quickly stamp out any future cases in New Zealand,” he said. In Australia, for instance, the country’s second-largest city Melbourne has had to impose a strict lockdown to combat a re-emergence of the virus.
• The U.S. passed 5 million reported Covid-19 cases on Sunday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. There are almost 20 million reported cases globally, with the U.S. leading the world, followed by Brazil with just over three million cases. India has more than two million confirmed cases. Health officials estimate that the actual number of Covid-19 cases in the U.S. is as much as 10 times higher than the number of reported cases due to infected Americans who don’t show symptoms and the limited number of tests available. The U.S. also has the world’s highest number of Covid-19 fatalities, with a death toll of over 162,000.
• TikTok and Twitter have held talks about an acquisition, The Wall Street Journal reports. It is unclear if
will go ahead with a deal to buy the popular video-shaping app’s U.S. operations, which President Donald Trump has labeled a national-security risk and threatened to shut down, the WSJ reported. Microsoft said earlier this month that it was in talks to buy TikTok’s operations in the U.S., along with those in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. It’s unclear how Twitter would pay for a potential acquisition, while Microsoft has ample cash to do the deal with no need for financing if it chooses.
• Vacant department store spaces in malls could be converted into Amazon fulfillment centers, The Wall Street Journal reported. Mall operator Simon Property Group is in talks to turn closed
stores in into distribution centers for the online retailer, the Journal said, citing unnamed sources.
already has a foothold in some malls, which have rented their parking lots out for delivery vans. Malls’ prime location near highways and homes make them ideal spots for fulfillment centers. Rents typically range from between $4 and $19 dollars a square foot.
• U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar became the highest-level U.S. government official to visit Taiwan in four decades on Sunday, when he touched down on the island that China claims is rightly its own. The move is a further escalation in U.S.-China relations and the Chinese government said it would retaliate, although it didn’t say precisely what action it might take. China considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province and doesn’t recognize it as a sovereign nation. The U.S. hasn’t had official ties with Taiwan since 1979. Secretary Azar’s arrival was broadcast on live on Taiwanese TV and the nominal focus of his trip is on public health cooperation between the U.S. and Taiwan, which has had less than 500 total Covid-19 infections and just 7 reported deaths from the virus.
• President Donald Trump signed executive orders on jobless benefits and payroll tax deferrals on Saturday. The orders call for expired federal unemployment payments to be paid out at a reduced level after Democrats and Republicans could not reach an agreement on a broad coronavirus relief package. Americans will receive an additional $400 a week in extended benefits, President Trump said, down from the $600 a week in additional payments that Americans had received and that had expired on Aug. 1.
Write to Ben Walsh at email@example.com