Daily coronavirus briefing: America under siege from invisible contagion

STAY AT HOME order for Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania issues a STAY AT HOME order effective March 23, 2020. (AccuWeather)
By Staff, AccuWeather

AccuWeather-(ENEWSPF)- The new coronavirus, and COVID-19, the disease it causes, surfaced in late 2019, and by mid-March had become a full-blown crisis worldwide. The global death toll climbed above 6,000 by March 15, just a few days after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in the United States. By the final week of March, global confirmed cases neared 400,000, the death toll climbed above 16,000 and cases were reported in at least 165 countries and regions.  

As testing has increased, the crisis escalated with health officials around the world reporting more than 21,000 new cases on March 19 alone. With cases spreading, and the epicenter of the outbreak shifting to Europe, life in the Western world has been upended the way it had been in Asia earlier in the developing crisis.

On March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemicThis is the first pandemic in 11 years, according to the CDC.

The number of cases of COVID-19 outside of China exploded 13-fold over a two-week period covering late February into early March, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals. We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.”

After weeks of spreading through the United States, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surpassed 40,000 and at least 550 deaths were blamed on the virus.

Weather and its potential impact on how COVID-19 behaves have remained a consistent focus since the outbreak erupted and experts are divided over what impact, if any, warmer weather will have on the spread of the outbreak.

Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has said that warm weather will “probably not” slow down the spread, at least not significantly.

And Michael Osterholm, the director of Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) echoed that sentiment and cautioned that the world is only in the beginning stages of the outbreak. “This is a coronavirus winter,” he cautioned, saying he expects the outbreak to go on for six months or more. Both Lipsitch’s and Osterholm’s positions came in March and stand in opposition to some previous analysis.

In early February, Hong Kong University pathology professor John Nicholls said he expected the virus to “burn itself out” by around May because of increased sunlight, higher temperatures and more humidity, according to a leaked transcript of a private conference call in early February.

In mid-March, Nicholls told AccuWeather that new research of a lab-grown copy of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness, shows “In cold environments, there is longer virus survival than warm ones.” He also warned that “human factors” associated with the virus “are more unpredictable.”

The CDC has cautioned that not enough is known about the virus to say for sure that weather will affect the spread, but a spokesperson said, “I’m happy to hope that it [the threat] goes down as the weather warms up.”

CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE ACCUWEATHER APP

As experts work toward a better understanding, the world shudders in fear of the unknown, a worry that has rocked global financial markets, leading to daily volatility in the U.S. stock markets.

Here are the latest updates, listed in eastern time, and the most important things you need to know about coronavirus.

March 24, 10:09

Hospitals around the world are experiencing a shortage of personal protective equipment, with the U.S. having as little as three days left before running outleading to some workers having to reuse masks for up to a week. People around the world are helping fight the shortage at home using 3D technology by 3D printing valves in Italy. In the U.S shields are being 3D printed for testing centers in Syracuse, New York. Those without 3D printers are also helping volunteer their time by making masks for health workers amid the crisis. Health care workers have also started using #GetUsPPE on social media to raise awareness for more volunteers.

March 24, 9:41 a.m.

New York and New Jersey are facing a frightening coronavirus attack rate, at least five times stronger than other parts of the U.S., Dr. Deborah Birx said at a press briefing on Monday. The attack rate, which is the percentage of a population that gets a disease, rose to about one in 1,000 in the New York metro area of New Jersey, New York City and parts of Long Island, Birx said. Roughly 28% of COVID-19 tests submitted in that region came back positive, compared to less than 8% in the rest of the country.

March 24, 8:58 a.m.

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have officially been postponed for one year. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a conference call Tuesday morning to discuss the “unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak,” which is nearing 400,000 confirmed cases worldwide. The two officials released a joint statement confirming the postponement of the games.

“In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community,” the statement read.

March 24, 7:58 a.m.

China will lift the lockdown across much of Hubei province, according to The Associated PressNew confirmed cases have continued to drop in the province and city of Wuhan, which is considered to be ground zero for the COVID-19 pandemic. Wuhan will remain locked down until April 8, but residents elsewhere with a clean bill of health will be allowed to leave, the AP reported, citing the provincial government. The lockdown for Wuhan first went into effect Jan. 23.

On Monday, one new confirmed case was reported in Wuhan, the country’s National Health Commission said, making it the first new case in the hard-hit city since March 17. Across mainland China, there have been 81,171 reports of confirmed cases and 3,277 deaths since the outbreak began.

March 24, 7:29 a.m.

Head-spinning number of people are under orders or are being asked to stay home. It may seem surreal, but The Associated Press estimates that about 1.5 billion people on Earth are under some form of isolation. This is quarantine life in the age of coronavirus. Of course, these extreme measures are being taken because of the rapid spread of COVID-19, which is equally head-spinning.

According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 and just four days for the third 100,000.

March 24, 6:33 a.m.

Here are the latest updated numbers, compiled by researchers from Johns Hopkins University:

  • Total confirmed cases: 383,944
  • Total deaths: 16,595
  • Total recoveries: 101,911

March 23, 9:45 p.m.

With more than 40,000 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., knowing what symptoms to recognize is critical to slowing the spread and preserving your health. According to the CDC, some of the symptoms to look out for include fever, cough and shortness of breath. These symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure, so it is important to stay inside and avoid social interactions in case of contact with the virus, even if symptoms aren’t present right away. The CDC also advises keeping an eye out for what experts there are calling emergency warning signs, which include:  

• Trouble breathing
• Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
• New confusion or inability to arouse
• Bluish lips or face

March 23, 8:52 p.m.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a ’Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ order, telling all people across the state to remain at home with the exception of grocery shopping, visiting a doctor or fulfilling an essential work duty. Washington is the latest in a long line of states that have taken similar measures to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. According to CNN, the other states include:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • West Virginia

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has also issued a stay-at-home order for seven counties, including the cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, but not the entire commonwealth.

Read More