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History of the Virus

History of the Virus

(Updated 12/1/2020)


It is impossible at this stage to write an appraisal today without acknowledging what has occurred to throw the economy into complete turmoil. But let’s see if we can accurately trace the history of this virus as it spread quickly out of China in 2019.


This particular type of respiratory disease is caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2. (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) It is part of an extensive family of coronaviruses, the majority of which typically cause only the simple common cold, the flu. It is referred to as SARS-2 as it has many commonalities with SARS or now SARS-1 or officially SARS-CoV or SARS-CoV-1. These two respiratory diseases acted in a slightly different way. SARS-1 became more contagious after symptoms developed where SARS-2 is very asymptomatic or even pre-symptomatic for up to 14-days after infection. There have been no reported SARS-CoV-1 cases world wide since 2004.

The Chinese in late 2019 said they discovered a related SARS virus and it was ‘stated’ to have surfaced in an outdoor seafood market (wet market) in Wuhan (the British medical publication The Lancet does not concur with this evaluation however.) A US intelligence assessment has pushed that date for the back to at least August 2019, again centering around Hubei province. It was eventually to bring about the Coronavirus pandemic of 2019-21. Similar to MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome - MERS-CoV) and SARS, this coronavirus likely jumped from an animal to a human, perhaps via some other species such as a bat (mammal). It was mysterious enough that the World Health Organization (WHO) was first alerted to many cases of pneumonia like infections in Wuhan, a city in the central eastern Chinese province of Hubei, on December 31, 2019. There in all likelihood was a delay in reporting, maybe up a four-months of a delay, where the Chinese may not have been not completely forthcoming.


By January 7, 2020 the Chinese authorities announced that they identified this mysterious infection as a type of coronavirus. By January 12, 2020 the Chinese were to share the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus to all countries including United States to use in developing specific diagnostic kits. The virus however had gotten out and with the major Chinese Winter Festival celebration taking place and millions of people including those from Hubei province on the move across the entire country and beyond.

The following day January 13, 2020 the Ministry of Health in Thailand confirmed their first case of SARS-2. Two days later on January 15, 2020 the Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare in Japan confirmed their first case. Clearly, an incubation period of up to 28 -days was in play (14-days and 14-days). It was another five days, January 20, 2020 that The Republic of Korea was to report their first case. By January 20, 2020 the number of confirmed cases had increased to 282 with all but four being in China. Important here is that the Chinese had typed the virus, therefore it was traceable, where as up to January 12, 2019 it was just another virus.

Up until December 2020, it was assumed that first case reported in the United States by the CDC was in Washington State the day after the Korea announcement January 21, 2020. That man, who has since fully recovered, had been in the city of Wuhan. The first reported person-to-person transmission was on January 30, 2020 by Chicago health officials, where a woman who also had been in China transmitted the virus to her husband. While the instances of community infection was occurring worldwide, the first community infected individual was in California on February 26, 2020. But this was such an active virus that something was amiss. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now believe that the novel coronavirus may have infected people in the United States as early as Dec. 13, 2019, according to a study published on November 30, 2020 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. Of the 7,389 samples, collected and tested from nine states that were tested for SARS-CoV-2 reactive antibodies, at least 106 were found to have antibodies for SARS-CoV-2, including ones collected from California, Oregon and Washington from Dec. 13 through Dec. 16, 2019.


So just to be clear, when did we know about this virus and how did we respond? In 2019, Health and Human Services conducted an extensive simulation of a SARS like scenario where a respiratory virus and in this case it was dubbed "The Crimson Contagion." The simulation had the virus starting in China and rapidly spread through-out the United States. The draft report from this simulation was reported to have raised plenty of red flags about many government shortcomings and the Federal Government's response, supplies, all the way to their messaging in containing the Crimson Contagion virus.


Sometime between August and November 2019, Covid-19 broke out in Wuhan. According to an ABC News Report, by the end of November, the National Center for Medical Intelligence (a branch of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency), through data intercepts and satellite imagery, identified the virus outbreak as a potential threat to US troops in the region. The Agency however issued a rare statement April 8, 2020 debunking these claims that it produced a report warning about the novel coronavirus as far back as November. But we know now from later assessments that it was even earlier. This also fits in with the spread of the virus and the number of infections before January 1, 2020.


By January of 2020 there was a noteworthy amount of back-and-forth between the current administration and other government offices with a significant amount of finger-pointing. But it is clear that enough people where privy to the extent of the looming damage that this virus could inflict on the national economy. In a memo from Trump Trade Advisor Peter Navarro to Trump, he stated that "the lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on US soil... This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans (January 30, 2020.)” By February 7, 2020 Trump was telling the journalist Bob Woodward… [made public September 9, 2020] “It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu...” Trump went on to say to Woodward “This is deadly stuff.” Publicly, Trump was telling everyone (especially his supporters) who would listen that this was all a “nothing burger” and would go away all by itself. Finally, by October 20, 2020 just before the election Trump was saying "People are saying whatever. Just leave us alone. They’re tired of it (the pandemic). People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots...Fauci is a nice guy. He’s been here for 500 years." Any central leadership had now evaporated as we were as a Nation heading into the winter months.


So where are we? According to the New York Times as of Tuesday morning (December 1, 2020), more than 13,615,100 people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 268,000 have died. Case numbers are spiking across most of the United States, but especially in the less populated States that simply don’t have the infrastructure to take care of their citizens leading to dire warnings about full hospitals, exhausted health care workers and expanding

lockdowns. The smaller less populated States such as North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas and Oklahoma have been particularly hard hit. These are also the states that have been fiercely pushing back against any government controls even down to wearing a simple mask.



To be completely fair, it would have been to difficult to actually wrap ones head around the destructive power that this virus was about to unleash in March of 2020 not just within the United States but across the entire world. But it is it’s very destructive power has had a significant and potentially lasting effect on many sectors of the built environment. These include hotels, movie theaters, senior living facilities, retail, potentially some office, order industrial properties, etc.


Finally there are two viable vaccines and a third in the wings that all may be available by the end of year (2020) for distribution. The CDC is expected to announce shortly who will receive doses first. States do not have to follow this recommendation, but one assumes most will. The two recognize groups are frontline healthcare workers and the elderly living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Pfizer and Moderna, the two companies closest to gaining approval for their vaccines, have estimated that they will have enough doses to vaccinate no more than 22.5 million Americans by January. That still leaves over 310,000,000 persons to go.


2020 has been an unbelievably difficult year for most people. It is clear that so many mistakes where made by the outgoing administration that simply made matters so much worse. From Cares to several other rescue packages both the central government and the states are short of funds and so many more financial rescue packages are need. This is putting additional pressure on local assessing authorities to raise more revenue through real estate taxes. In Cook County especially a lack of any genuine leadership in the assessors office has been an issue and will continue to be one through 2021. But it’s not just Cook County Illinois, it’s all the other communities and municipalities throughout the country.


Finally there is no mistaking this fact, but this is a form of external obsolescence that is affecting almost every piece of real estate in the country. There are the exceptions such as the Amazons, Costco’s, Walmarts where they need more and more warehousing space. But these are the exceptions and not the rule. External Obsolescence is defined as “a type of depreciation; a diminution in value caused by negative external influences and generally incurable on the part of the owner, landlord, or tenant. The external influence may be either temporary or permanent.” The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal, 6th Edition, Page 83, Appraisal Institute. The history of this virus has now become the history of all properties. They are at this moment in time inseparable. Hopefully this will change, but it will take some time.


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