Dr. Mike: Coronavirus needs to be taken more seriously than ever before
Family medicine doctor Dr. Mikhail Varshavski, known as ‘Dr. Mike,’ discusses how contagious coronavirus is and potential treatments.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump warned Americans to brace for a "hell of a bad two weeks" ahead as the White House projected there could be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus pandemic even if current social distancing guidelines are maintained.
Public health officials stressed Tuesday that the number could be less if people across the country bear down on keeping their distance from one another.
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"We really believe we can do a lot better than that," said Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force. That would require all Americans to take seriously their role in preventing the spread of disease, she said.
Added Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, "This is a number that we need to anticipate, but we don't necessarily have to accept it as being inevitable."
When billionaire Bill Ackman went on television last week to tearfully warn that “hell is coming” and beg the White House to shut down the country for 30 days, he was knee deep in a bet against the markets that netted him $2.6 billion.
In a Wednesday note to investors of his Pershing Square fund, Ackman said he cashed out of a credit hedge on Monday for a profit of $2.6 billion. The hedge, which he started building on March 3, cost him roughly $27 million and scored big as stock and debt markets floundered on fears of the coming pandemic — fears, critics say, that he helped stoke.
After firing off a tweetstorm to President Trump on March 17 proposing that the US impose a nationwide “extended spring break” to combat the virus’ spread, Ackman called into CNBC the next morning. In an emotional interview, he claimed to have locked down in late February after realizing how deadly the pandemic was going to be for people like his immuno-compromised septuagenarian father.
“Everyone feels, you know, 99 percent chance I’ll be OK!’” Ackman said on the air. “But it’s not you: It’s the person you give it to. I am not going to kill my father, OK?”
After his CNBC appearance, Ackman was lambasted by critics for helping an already depressed stock market sink lower. “Please get Ackman off CNBC before people start jumping off bridges,” fellow billionaire and ex-hedge fund manager Michael Novogratz tweeted.
Now the size of Ackman’s profit — tied to credit spreads widening as investors ran for safety — is turning heads again.
“It looks like a hell of a trade,” quipped one trader at a large bank who read Ackman’s Wednesday letter. “I guess Bill was crying on TV for a lot of reasons. Tears of joy.”
Sources close to Ackman say he’s lost money overall given his exposure to stocks, resulting in a loss of 6.5 percent for the year in early March. And they point out that he was one of the first financiers to close his office and tell staff to work from home in order to prevent the spread of the virus in late February.
“Maybe it had something to do with what was going on in the world,” one source quipped about the global stock rout.
During his CNBC interview, Ackman said he would buy stocks based on his confidence that Trump would follow his advice. He was particularly bullish about stock in Hilton Hotels, which he predicted would “go to zero” if radical action wasn’t taken against the virus.
In his Wednesday letter, Ackman told investors that “substantially all of the proceeds” from his $2.6 billion windfall would be used to buy more stock in current investments, like Hilton, Starbucks, Restaurant Brands and Lowe’s.