As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues its deadly rampage across China, more cases have come to the USA, and Chinese churches are fighting back with spiritual weapons.
China's latest update raised the number of people who have died from the coronavirus in mainland China to around 1,900 and the total number of confirmed cases to more than 72,000.
Here in the US, 14 Americans infected with the coronavirus were flown into the country on Monday nearly doubling the number of confirmed cases in the US. Those new victims came from a cruise ship in Japan, and authorities did not detect the infections until the last minute.
Now, Chinese health officials are releasing the first analysis of all the victims. If the numbers are accurate, here's what they reveal:
- About 2.3 percent of coronavirus victims die, making it more dangerous than the seasonal flu.
- Most who succumb to the disease - about 60 percent - are in their 60s or older.
More than half of China is on lockdown or travel restriction, and there are concerns about how the country informed the world community.
The Hudson Institute's Gen. Robert S. Spalding (USAF Ret.) said, "The greater concern just to this coronavirus alone is the secrecy and control of the Chinese Communist Party. This goes all the way back to December - didn't really start coming out until January. By then the epidemic had spread."
Meanwhile, we're learning more about how the church in China is responding to the crisis.
The lead pastor of Root & Fruit Christian Church in Wuhan, Huang Lei, says no physical meetings are allowed because of the lockdown, so churches are meeting online.
"It is just not our own ideas for protection; it is also a hard rule by the government," he said. "We may not be able to leave this city of Wuhan, but we can still draw near to our Lord God. No matter the circumstances, His guidance and love is always with us. We know that our God is still King who reigns over the flood."
Churches in China and around the world called for three days of fasting and prayer in early February. "It is our way to cry to God to repent and ask God to stop this plague," Pastor Lei said. "We ask God to help His people on earth; help us to survive, so with this prayer, I think the children of God in Wuhan got to closely connect with their brothers and sisters all over the world to encourage one another and care for each other."
Pastor Tan Songhua of Wuhan Fangjiaoshi Church wrote a prayer letter to Christians in China and around the world.
Songhua noted the severity of the crisis, calling it a "test of faith."
He wrote, "So brothers and sisters, I encourage you to be strong in the love of Christ. If we experience death deeper in the plague and understand the gospel, we will experience the love of Christ more deeply and be closer to God. Like our Lord Jesus, who experienced cruel death by faith, but God raised him from the dead and set him to his right."
With the virus locking down so much of the country, it's affecting the economy. Apple announced today that it will miss its revenue forecasts due to global supply constraints and lower Chinese demand due to the shutdown in major Chinese cities.