• Drive-thru COVID-19 testing is coming
  • Apple’s bold new design for the 5G iPhone
  • China’s state-backed cryptocurrency is nearly here. And the U.S. is not ready…

Dear Reader,

First the bad news.

Jobless claims came out this morning at 5.2 million. That puts our four-week total in the U.S. above 22 million. Unprecedented.

Knowing that we have at least two more full weeks of lockdown in the U.S., it is not a stretch to forecast that we’ll reach a level above 30 million by the end of April. This is heartbreaking to watch, especially after we read about the new research below.

We can see the secondary effects of the job cuts through the incredible success of the small business loans program provide by the CARES Act.

The Paycheck Protection Program has already approved 1.4 million loans at a value of more than $315 billion. It appears that the program will reach its almost $350 billion target by week’s end. It is safe to say that more aid will follow.

And while the U.S. does its best to keep small businesses in business during this lockdown, we have some good news on COVID-19.

Nature just published research concerning the cruise ship Diamond Princess that received so much press coverage. The entire ship was quarantined on Japanese shores after a passenger disembarked in Hong Kong and was tested positive for COVID-19.

As traumatic as that experience was for so many of the passengers, most of whom were older and more at risk, it was a perfect environment for analysis of COVID-19. We can think of it as a self-contained human laboratory. The virus could spread among the population of the ship – 3,711 passengers and crew.

While Japanese officials were not able to test the entire population, they performed more than 3,000 tests. The data confirmed that 18% of those infected showed no symptoms at all.

More importantly, the case fatality rate on the ship was determined to be 1%. This is a far cry from the 3.4% rate touted by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Timothy Russell, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, took the quality data from the Diamond Princess research and applied it to the COVID-19 cases in China.

Russell and his team took the total number of deaths and divided that by all infections. The team included asymptomatic cases. The resulting estimated case fatality rate was 0.5%.

And the actual number is likely to be lower than that because some asymptomatic cases probably weren’t accounted for. The research from the Diamond Princess and the work that Russell and his team have done offer the most accurate, substantiated analysis that we have to date.

And the news gets even better. John Ioannidis is a professor of disease prevention in the School of Medicine at Stanford University and an expert in epidemiology and biomedical data science. And he used the data from the Diamond Princess and took it one step further.

Ioannidis concluded that 1% is the absolute maximum fatality rate for COVID-19. Why? Because much of the “population” on the Diamond Princess was elderly – thus the highest risk population for COVID-19.

He took the data from Diamond Princess and applied it to the age structure of the U.S. population. The analysis resulted in a case fatality estimate of 0.125%. His research also yielded a range within which the actual case fatality rate sits – somewhere between 0.025% to 0.625%.

This is fantastic news. And yes, that does mean that the case fatality rate is likely on par or potentially even lower than seasonal flu.

It is time to thoughtfully begin the process of reopening the U.S. economy. Four weeks ago, we didn’t have the data. Now we do.

We’ve had enough of this fear- and panic-induced crisis based on shaky assumptions. It’s time to get back to school and rebuild the global economy.

Now to our insights…

A new COVID-19 test just got FDA approval…

The FDA just approved a COVID-19 saliva test developed by researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey – one of the areas hardest hit by the virus. This is great news.

To take the test, we simply need to spit into a vial. That’s it. No swab, no blood test. Then we’ll get results back in 48 hours. How’s that for simple?

Of course, this isn’t as impressive as the one-minute COVID-19 test we talked about yesterday. But that’s a long way away from FDA approval. And if we compare the Rutgers test to the others available in the U.S. today, it’s far superior.

Right now, most COVID-19 tests require a nasal swab. It means sticking a long swab deep into the nasal cavity. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer not to do that…

And up to this point, these COVID-19 tests can take a week or more to get results. That’s not very useful since most people recover in less than two weeks. Having to wait a full week for results leaves patients in limbo regarding how they should be treated.

So this is a great development. And this new test is easy to scale and manufacture.

There is already an abundance of test kits available in the U.S. and globally. Millions are being produced every week.

The biggest problems, however, have been the long turnaround times for results and finding laboratories that are currently integrated with the existing health care system – this is where the current bottleneck lies.

Tests like this one are easier to administer. This process will help solve these problems. This would empower us to finally know the true scale of infection and the real mortality rate of COVID-19.

Details about the new iPhone release are starting to come out…

As we know, Apple plans to release its new 5G-enabled iPhones in the fall. This is a tipping point for the industry. 5G-enabled devices will become prolific in all major markets around the world.

It’s always around this time of the year when more specifics about the new iPhones leak into the market. By now, prototypes have been manufactured, machine tooling is in place, designs are complete, and manufacturing will soon begin.

And this year is the biggest year for iPhones that I can remember. The last time was back in 2010 when Apple released its first 4G-enabled iPhones.

This year, iPhones will be completely redesigned. To start, the iPhones will have flat stainless steel edges instead of the curved glass design we’ve seen in recent models.

Most exciting, the new iPhones will come with a lidar system embedded in the phone. This is a feature that we have already seen last month with the new iPad Pro release. Lidar is used as a sensor to detect and digitize an environment into a three-dimensional image.

As a reminder, lidar will bring augmented reality (AR) to the masses. AR is the technology that overlays video, images, and data on top of our view of the real world. And plenty of apps will be developed to take advantage of this technology.

For example, a physical therapy app could examine a patient’s angle or range of movement, issue a diagnosis, and tailor a recovery program – all from the patient’s living room.

An interior design app could project items into our homes so we can see how things look before we buy them.

And a fashion app could allow us to “try on” clothes before we buy them online.

This will be the first major iPhone refresh cycle in at least five years. For years, consumers have been putting off buying a new iPhone. The new models just weren’t that different from previous models.

That won’t be the case this year. A 5G-powered iPhone with a new suite of sensors for 3D and AR built-in would be a revolutionary product. Consumers will rush out to buy their new iPhones, and I will be one of the first to do so.

And by the way, this has major investment implications for the best 5G stocks on the market today, most of which are flying under the radar right now.

That’s why I recently gave a presentation on 5G at the historic Shubert Theater at Yale University. In it, I talked about my No 1 large-cap 5G stock for 2020. This company is a key supplier for Apple’s 5G iPhone.

I believe it should be in every tech investor’s portfolio. Simply go right here to view that presentation.

China’s digital currency is almost ready for launch…

We’ll wrap up today with big news out of mainland China.

The state-owned Agricultural Bank of China just released a test application for smartphones for the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) digital currency project.

That’s right – China is testing out the consumer side of its central bank digital currency (CBDC).

We can think of a CBDC as being similar to a cryptocurrency like bitcoin with one major difference. Unlike bitcoin, a CBDC would not be a decentralized technology architecture or transparent. It would be under the strict control of the Chinese government.

We haven’t talked about this since January, but the CBDC trend has been moving ahead at full speed with China leading the way.

It’s important to note that the Agricultural Bank of China is one of the country’s largest banks. The fact that this bank is launching a testing application for China’s CBDC is a big deal.

Clearly, China is very close to launching its digital currency. It has made a lot of progress last year toward this goal.

The app serves as a wallet for the state-backed digital currency. It tracks all transactions, and it also has digital currency exchange functionality built into it. It’s everything citizens would need to receive, store, exchange, and transact in the CBDC.

Now, I don’t think the timing of this release is a mistake. From the Chinese government’s perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic is the perfect opportunity to push a “contactless payment” system.

After all, we know that viruses can be spread on the surface of paper money. Given what we’ve experienced with COVID-19, it will be an easy sell to move away from cash and toward a digital currency.

For this reason, I expect we’ll see China’s digital currency launch this year.

Longtime readers know I have been predicting this for some time. In fact, I was recently in Washington D.C. warning government officials that the U.S. was falling dangerously behind in adopting this technology.

Make no mistake, China’s digital currency will catch the U.S. off guard. And it will light a fire under the United States to follow suit with a digital version of the dollar.

And for investors, this presents a unique opportunity…

A small number of technology companies will benefit from the heightened awareness of digital assets. That’s why I’ve been preparing my readers with recommendations in technology companies that support the digital asset industry.

To learn more about these stocks, go right here.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge

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