Covid-19: Where We Are and Where Things Go from Here
It should go without saying that much has changed in the last few weeks since we published our February blog about the Novel Coronavirus, now being called Covid-19. Since February, the virus has spread to practically every corner of the world with almost a quarter of a million cases reported and over 10,000 deaths.
Here at home, over 14,000 cases have been reported across the country and 205 people have died as of March 20th, 2020. While many treatments are being tested to combat the virus, there is currently no known effective treatment for Covid-19.
National and local news outlets are reporting news at a rapid pace and it’s completely understandable for many of you to be overwhelmed. The news seems to change everyday and more often than not, there is very little positive information. If there is one glimmer of positive news, it’s that cases in China, where the virus originated, have decreased significantly. The province of Hubei, where the outbreak originated, had its first day of no new cases reported on March 19th.
With so much disinformation being shared through social media, you and your family may have heard things about the virus or the status of the country that simply isn’t true. It’s vital that you only get your information from credible sources, like government agencies and especially the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, otherwise known as the CDC.
This blog is intended to break down the vast amount of information currently available being provided by credible sources and simplified for you and your family to understand so that you can remain safe. It will cover how many aspects of our lives are now changed and what you and your family can expect in the future.
Covid-19: How It Began
Whether referred to as the Novel Coronavirus, “the coronavirus”, or Covid-19, the virus is the same. The virus originated in the Wuhan region of China and the origins of how the virus came to spread from human to human are still largely unknown. What we do know is that many people who traveled to this region of the world had no idea they were infected with a new form of virus and unknowingly brought it with them back to their home countries.
Any Americans traveling abroad once the virus became a more serious concern were quarantined overseas or on cruise ships while the US prepared to quarantine them in air force bases across the country. Though, these measures were done to prevent the spread of the disease to the rest of the country, those who traveled to the region or had been exposed to someone already infected with the virus and began to show symptoms were already transmitting Covid-19 to their communities. Ultimately, as the virus spread all over the world and with no effective treatment, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a global pandemic. This is where we are today.
The Early Fight
At the beginning of the U.S’s entrance of the battle against Covid-19, the CDC highly urged the public to practice proper handwashing ettique. This was before anyone truly understood the nature of the virus being spread in China. The CDC advised Americans the possibility of being infected with “the coronavirus” was incredibly low, though they still highly encouraged all Americans to properly wash their hands for 20 seconds using soap and water to avoid becoming sick with either the coronavirus or by the flu, which to this day has similar symptoms.
Losing Ground Globally
While America seems to be in the beginning stages and is slowly making progress on preventing additional infections, densely populated countries in Europe and Asia have seen their fair share of infections. Though the largest number of infections came from China, no other country has more casualties from covid-19 than Italy. While almost 4,500 people have recovered from the virus, as of March 19th, over three thousand people have died in Italy, surpassing all the deaths reported in China where the disease originated.
In less densely populated areas and where governments have taken extreme measures to combat the virus, the numbers are significantly lower, proving that decreasing social interaction greatly decreases the risk of further infection. This is what you hear when officials talk about flattening the curve.
Essentially, flattening the curve means if we increase measures that limit people’s exposure to Covid-19, demand on medical resources will decrease to a more manageable level, new infection numbers will drop dramatically, and it will allow those already infected to recover and no longer pose a risk to those who don’t have the virus. This is how the numbers of new infections in China have dropped. Less interactions, fewer infections. If we all don’t take these measures seriously, current predictions estimate we will not have the capacity to meet the number of new infections that will happen if we do not flatten the curve.
School’s Out… For Now
While many kids and teens were enjoying their Spring Break, school districts around the country were having serious discussions about closing campuses for an additional week to prevent students from spreading the virus.
Originally, many school districts opted for an additional week off out of an abundance of caution. However, as more states started reporting infections, many districts added an additional two weeks to the break on top of the extension. Some governors went a step further and shut down all schools in their states for a determined period of time. This left many parents scrambling to figure out the logistics of working and having their children at home, likely for the remainder of the school year.
Though physical schools closed, many state governments called on school districts to continue to provide instructional time to students via digital classrooms. Teachers and administrators are currently in the process of setting up these digital classrooms or have already provided parents and students with instructions on how to continue their lessons at home.
Many state exams like Texas’ STAAR Test have been canceled for the school year due to the numerous school closures.
But what has not been made clear by many districts is how this will affect grades and for next year. High school seniors preparing for college are unsure about their academic futures with colleges and universities also taking protective measures at their own campuses. But what is most disheartening is that many graduation ceremonies have either been postponed or canceled completely.
Closed for Business
If you’re one of the many Americans working from home, you know things are no longer business as usual for many people. Part of the measures to prevent the continued spread of the virus, state governments are following the recommendations of the CDC and issuing state of disaster orders which call for non-essential businesses to close their doors.
Non-essential businesses include:
- Gyms and Rec Centers
- Salons and Spas
- Casinos or other gambling businesses
- Shopping Malls
- Sporting and Concert Venues
Essential businesses, or businesses that are vital for the public, that can remain open during states of emergency or disaster include:
- Grocery Stores
- Gas Stations
- Post Offices
- Vet Clinics
- Hotel and Commercial Lodging
- Convenience Stores
Quite simply, anything the public doesn’t absolutely need in order to conduct business, receive medical attention, or get essential supplies has been asked to close for at least two weeks and in some cases up to 30 days.
An Unstable Economy
When it comes to the stock market, uncertainty drives fear. On March 16, 2020, the Dow saw its biggest one day loss in history and second biggest percentage loss since 1987’s Black Monday. This triggered fears of a global recession, a word not used since The Great Recession caused by financial markets in the late 2000s.
When China began quarantining people in order to prevent further infections, many factories halted production of goods exclusively made in the country.
With so many people staying home due to gathering restrictions, many of the businesses and workers that depend on a steady flow of customers had to begin making cuts. Non-essential businesses shut their doors, restaurants closed dining rooms and went strictly takeout or delivery only.
Other businesses asked many employees to work from home if they could. But many employees have been told to stay home, have had hours reduced, or have been let go simply because businesses cannot afford to pay workers without knowing when the economy will return to normal. In this temporary new normal, many Americans are now feeling the stress of not only losing their jobs, but wondering how they will pay their bills and buy the necessities. With many Americans living paycheck to paycheck and no savings to fall back on, financial anxiety for many is beginning to set in after just a few days.
The first thing many Americans did when they realized the virus was spreading was to take to the grocery stores and begin hoarding supplies. This led to massive shortages of paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning products, meat, canned supplies, and dry goods. Despite state and local officials assuring the public there was no need to stockpile, many people did it anyway.
Of course, there will always be people in society who use a crisis as an opportunity to make a dollar. Before stores could place restrictions on how many of a particular item people could buy at a time, online sellers began buying up hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer, bleach wipes, and masks to sell online at an inflated price.
Amazon and eBay shut down many of these seller’s profiles in an attempt to put an end to price gouging. State officials also began investigations into sellers, forcing hoarders to either donate all of the essential goods they’d bought to sell or pay a hefty fine or face jail time.
One common item people began to buy up quickly were masks. Within a few days, surgical mask supplies had completely dried up and many hospitals also began reporting shortages. As reported in our previous blog, masks will not prevent the spread of the virus.
How to Live in the Time of Covid-19
Here are the most important things you and your family need to know based on the information available right now:
Not Everyone Who Gets Sick has Covid-19
First and foremost, it’s important to remember that the less contact you and your family have with others, the less chance there is of being exposed to the virus. If you haven’t traveled to any places where there is a significant number of cases of Covid-19, you haven’t come into contact with someone who has, and if you’re not feeling symptoms, it is highly unlikely you have the virus.
Where people worry is when they begin feeling flu-like symptoms after being out in public. While both the flu and Covid-19 have many of the same symptoms, the one major difference between them is that those with Covid-19 also experience a shortness of breath.
The virus is spread through airborne particles released after an infected person coughs or sneezes. Those particles linger in the air and eventually fall onto surfaces or are breathed in by other people. While simply touching those surfaces wouldn’t make you sick, touching your face, mouth, or eyes before you’ve washed your hands can give the virus access into your body.
Wearing a surgical mask is not going to prevent you from getting sick if someone around you coughs or sneezes. Surgical masks do not make perfect seals around your mouth and the fabric used for the masks will not prevent viruses from passing through. Furthermore, even if you didn’t inhale the virus, the fine air particles containing the virus that get released after someone coughs or sneezes can still land on your hands and face.
It’s important to make sure you don’t needlessly go to public places where you’ll come into contact with people who are coughing, sneezing, and touching the same surfaces you will have to touch. If you are feeling sick, stay home and quarantine yourself.
The most stressful part in combating covid-19 is that some people who become infected may not ever show symptoms. This is why it is important to practice social distancing, meaning staying at least six-feet away from people if you’re in public, and staying home if you don’t absolutely have to leave the house.
Right now, if you are feeling sick and think you may have been exposed to the virus, call your doctor, especially if you have shortness of breath and you’ve developed a consistent pain in your chest. The CDC also has a Coronavirus Self-Checker if you think you might have the virus. If you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 and get help immediately.
You can’t get tested just to get tested. Currently, there aren’t enough testing kits to test everyone and testing people who don’t have symptoms and don’t meet the other criteria is pointless. The best thing you can do is stay home and quarantine yourself and your family.
Grocery Stores have Supplies So Stop Hoarding
Seriously, there is zero point to buying 500 packs of toilet paper. In fact, it does not make financial sense if you’ve lost your job, had your hours cut, or simply don’t need much in your home. Grocery stores have been preparing for months and there are adequate supplies to get us through the emergency. If you generally shop for a week or two, keep shopping that way. Don’t shop as though this is the last time you’ll ever be able to shop again.
But because people continue to panic shop, many grocery stores have had to reduce their shopping hours simply to allow their employees to restock the shelves. When you go to the store and see a bare shelf, don’t panic. The store is likely still waiting for their delivery of new goods.
Remember, there are vulnerable people in this country who not only live on fixed incomes but sometimes struggle to find ways to get to a grocery store. Imagine living with these struggles and finding out that the shelves are bare. This is a reality for many Americans who simply don’t have the means to take care of themselves sufficiently.
Keep Practicing Proper Hygiene
Make washing your hands your brand new habit. If you have to go shopping or go anywhere other than your home, make sure you wash your hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds. However the most important thing to remember is to avoid touching your face. This is definitely easier said than done.
Limit the amount of guests you have coming to your home, especially if you have older family members or children. Make sure to disinfect surfaces frequently used, especially your kitchen counter, remote controls, cell phones, door handles, and home appliances.
If you’re feeling sick, isolate yourself in your home from the rest of your family members to prevent sharing germs with everyone else. And if you start feeling shortness of breath while having flu-like symptoms, call your doctor immediately.
Make Sure Kids Keep Learning
Schools and school districts are working hard to set up digital classrooms and sending out study packets for all their students. Make sure to stay in touch with your school to find out when these resources will be available and how to use them.
In the meantime, there are plenty of online educational resources for kids to use so they can keep learning while they’re not learning. Your public library likely has tons of materials you can access online as well as ebooks for download, all of which can be accessed if you have a library card.
Anxiety is Going to Happen, Don’t Give Up
This is new territory for everyone, not just you. Many people are facing the prospect of losing their jobs and will worry about how they will pay their bills, buy necessities, and avoiding getting sick or making others sick.
You’re not alone in those feelings. It’s important you take some time for yourself and relax and do something to distract yourself. Turn off the news if it’s all becoming overwhelming and watch a movie. Do something pointless for your own mental health. While no one is sure how long this will go on, you’re not trapped in your house. As long as you remember to be safe, getting outside is not impossible.
But if you find the stress of everything going on too much, please seek help, especially if you suffer from depression and are suicidal. We’re going to get through this.
There’s Hope On the Horizon
Scientists around the world are working hard to come up with a vaccine for Covid-19. In fact, news today is there are drugs already being tested that are showing promise. It’s going to take time to test them, but initial results are looking promising.
On the financial front, the US government is currently working on a financial package that gets money into the hands of Americans as soon as possible. The details of the deal are still brand new and not much in the way of information has been released, so pay attention to your local news and local government offices to learn more.
Finally, getting the virus is not a death sentence. While about 10,500 people have died from the virus so far, almost 90,000 people have recovered. All of the people who have recovered can’t pass the virus on to non-infected people. This is why it’s so important that we practice social distancing, work from home if we can, and stay home if we’re feeling sick. The fewer people who get infected, the less strain we place on our medical workers, who everyday place themselves in harm’s way to keep people alive, and the faster we can flatten the curve and get back on with our lives.
Information about the Virus:
Mental Health Help: