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U.S. Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Top 200,000

U.S. Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Top 200,000

Health officials warn that the United States is at a "tipping point."

Updated on April 1, 2020 at 3:45pm EST.

The United States still leads the world in confirmed cases of COVID-19. At least 203,600 Americans have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus and at least 4,476 have died as a result. Cases have been confirmed in all 50 states, as well as Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. Due to limited testing in the United States however, the number of cases is likely higher. 

Italy is second to the U.S. with a total of 110,574 confirmed cases and Spain has a total of 102,136. In mainland China, where the outbreak was initially identified, there have been 82,361 cases. 

A quarter of the world's population is now living under some form of lockdown, including nearly one in three Americans, to slow the spread of the pandemic. Broad restrictions are in place in Ohio, Kansas, Louisiana and Delaware and the city of Philadelphia as well as New York, California, Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey. Combined, these locations are home to more than 100 million Americans. Meanwhile, at least 30 states have also banned large gatherings and closed bars, restaurants, parks, theaters and other public places. School closures due to coronavirus have affected at least 124,000 U.S. public and private schools and at least 55.1 million students across the country.

U.S. health officials stress that the country has reached a "tipping point," warning that if pleas to practice social distancing and avoid social gathering of more than 10 people continue to be ignored, the country and healthcare system will be bombarded with a surge of new cases amid a dire shortage of hospital beds, ventialtors and other life-save equipment to treat all patients effectively.

The United States is one of many countries across the globe scrambling to "flatten the curve" and control the pandemic, which is reshaping the world and rattling global financial markets. As the number of new COVID-19 cases has slowed in China, the novel coronavirus is spreading like wildfire in other parts of the world. Globally, more than 911,300 people have been infected. Overall, COVID-19 has spread to at least 180 countries and territories and claimed at least 45,497 lives around the world.

The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, noting it's the first pandemic to be caused by a coronavirus. Just days earlier, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, urged people around the world to remain vigilant in their efforts to halt the spread of the disease and not give up. 

“We are not at the mercy of this virus," he said. “Let hope be the antidote to fear. Let solidarity be the antidote to blame. Let our shared humanity be the antidote to our shared threat."

Latest U.S. developments
Most U.S. deaths from COVID-19 have occured in New York City where the novel coronavirus has claimed at least 1,139 lives. New Jersey, Connecticut, Louisiana, Washington state, California are other "hotspots" with a high number of confirmed cases relative to other parts of the United States.

President Trump said he has activated the National Guard to assist New York, California and Washington, states that so far have been hit hardest by the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

Colorado, Massachusettes, Michigan, Illinois and Texas also report a relatively high number of confirmed COVID-19 infections. Case counts in other states are likely to rise however as testing ramps up across the country. So far, barriers to testing, including a shortage of masks and other essential medical supplies, have hindered attempts to contain the pandemic and get a more accurate assessment of how many people are currently affected by the infection. Complicating matters, many people who had mild cases may have already recovered and be unaware that they were infected.

“We recognize that this is a difficult time; we are facing a historic public health challenge," said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokesperson, Dr. Nancy Messonnier in a statement. "We will continue to respond to COVID-19 in an aggressive way to contain and blunt the threat of this virus.”

The CDC cautions that more cases are likely to be confirmed in the days and weeks ahead. The greatest concern is for older people and those with a weakened immune system or underlying condition, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease or cancer. Federal health officials are advising those at high risk for severe infections and complications to voluntarily isolate themselves to avoid exposure. 

It's important to understand however, that even otherwise healthy younger adults can also develop a more serious infection that requires hospitalization and the use of medical supplies and equipment that are in short supply. In fact, the latest CDC data shows that nearly 40 percent of U.S. patients sick enough to be hospitalized were between 20 and 54-years old. The risk of dying however, is much greater for older people.

Developments around the world
Italy is among the hardest hit countries, with more than 13,155 deaths. The Italian government reportedly initiated a massive lockdown—one of the largest-ever attempts to restrict travel in the Western world. COVID-19 is also spreading rapidly in other parts of Europe. Following a surge in cases, Spain initiated a lockdown on at least 47 million people. Germany has closed its borders, and confirms at least 76,544 cases. In France, the government implemented a lockdown on some 67 million people as confirmed cases top 52,870. The United Kingdom has also reported 29,854 cases of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Iran has reported at least 47,493 cases. It’s widely believed however that Iran may be underreporting its coronavirus cases. 

COVID-19’s economic toll
The new coronavirus is causing major disruptions to the airline and travel industry as well as demand for oil.  Amid global panic and uncertainty about COVID-19, global stock markets are taking a significant hit.  

The U.S. Federal Reserve cut its key interest rate to near zero—a bold move designed to shield the U.S. economy from the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic and encourage more bank loans to individuals and businesses. The Federal Reserve also plans to buy $700 billion in government securities.

President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which guarantees free testing and offers paid sick leave for people infected with COVID-19 and those caring for family members with the virus. The law, signed on March 18, 2020, is an attempt to help American workers who may face significant disruption due to COVID-19.

The bill provides two weeks of paid sick days for those being tested or treated for COVID-19. People told to quarantine by a government official or doctor due to symptoms or exposure would also be eligible for sick leave benefits. Payments during leave would be capped at $511 per day, which is roughly equal to an annual salary of $133,000.

Ongoing efforts to contain the virus
The outbreak of the new coronavirus began in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. Less than two months later, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a global health emergency and the U.S. State Department issued its strongest “Level 4” alert, advising against any travel to China due to the outbreak. Just days later, the WHO confirmed that the coronavirus claimed the life of a patient in the Philippines—the first death to occur outside of mainland China.

Initially, health officials began screening passengers at San Francisco (SFO), New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX) airports but later expanded screenings to 15 additional airports. As of February 10, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it would funnel all flights from China to 11 airports where health screenings are being conducted.

Despite ongoing global containment efforts, the coronavirus has spread to at least 180 counties and territories, ranging from Australia to North America.

"We are on the highest level of alert or highest level of risk assessment in terms of spread and in terms of impact," said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's health emergencies program, during a February 28 media briefing. "This is a reality check for every government on the planet: Wake up. Get ready. This virus may be on its way and you need to be ready. You have a duty to your citizens, you have a duty to the world to be ready."

Warning signs of infection
Those infected with COVID-19 have developed a range of symptoms associated with a respiratory infection. Researchers are still investigating how the coronavirus affects the body, but symptoms tend to develop, on average, about five days after exposure. The most commonly reported symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Phlegm or a productive cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Chills

Less commonly reported symptoms include, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.

More severe coronavirus infections can also lead to pneumonia, kidney failure or even death.

COVID-19 vs. other coronavirus outbreaks
The emergence of COVID-19 is a stark reminder of previous deadly coronavirus outbreaks, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). That illness, which is caused by SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV), was first reported in Asia in February 2003. SARS spread to more than 29 countries before it was contained. There have been no confirmed cases of that particular coronavirus since 2004.

More recently, health officials scrambled to contain an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), which originated in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. Roughly three or four out of every 10 MERS cases has been fatal, according to the CDC. The agency points out, however, that only two cases ever reached the U.S., and both were associated with travel to the Arabian Peninsula.

Do you need to be worried?
COVID-19 is a new virus and this pandemic is fueling fears about a mysterious and serious illness. It’s important to understand, however, that there are many coronaviruses. Most trigger mild to moderate illness and most people will be infected with one of them at some point in their lives. Only rarely do coronaviruses lead to serious illnesses, such as MERS and SARS.

The World Health Organization notes that COVID-19 is not as deadly as SARS, or MERS. By comparison, the WHO estimates that more than 80 percent of those with COVID-19 will develop only a mild infection and recover.

Only about 16 percent of cases result in severe illness and complications, including pneumonia and trouble breathing. Fewer still, about 5 percent, will develop very serious issues, including respiratory failure, septic shock and organ failure. As researchers continue to learn more about this new coronavirus, estimates for its mortality rate range from 0.6 to 3.4 percent.

Still, the CDC warns that COVID-19 is a “very serious public health threat." Federal health officials expect more cases to be confirmed and more person-to-person spread to occur in the U.S. and around the world.

The CDC is tracking the new coronavirus closely and coordinating its response to the outbreak with the WHO as well as state and local health officials.

What is a coronavirus anyway?
Coronaviruses are actually a common type of virus that cause respiratory symptoms—much like a cold—that range from mild to severe. These viruses usually circulate among animals, particularly camels as well as cats or bats. On rare occasions, animal coronaviruses can mutate and spread to people. There are several coronaviruses currently circulating among animals that have not yet infected humans.

Many of those people initially affected by the outbreak in Wuhan, China had a link to a large seafood and animal market. Since then, other confirmed cases were not associated with this market, suggesting the latest coronavirus outbreak involved person-to-person spread as well.

How do coronaviruses spread?
Like the flu and some other respiratory viruses, coronaviruses typically spread among people through close personal contact, such as shaking hands or touching. It can also spread through the air when someone coughs or sneezes. Likewise, if you touch a contaminated surface then touch your mouth, nose or eyes, you can become infected.

Lab tests on blood or other bodily secretions are used to detect coronaviruses among those with suspected severe coronavirus infections, such as SARS, MERS or COVID-19.

Is there a treatment?
There are no specific drugs or treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses.

U.S. researchers gave the first shots of an experimental coronavirus vaccine to a human vaccine trial participant on Monday, March 15. It's one of more than 20 COVID-19 vaccines currently in development around the world. Several antiviral treatments are also being tested.

In many cases, people with mild or moderate infections recover on their own. Supportive care, such as over-the-counter pain relievers, getting plenty of rest and drinking fluids, can help.

How to protect yourself
Like the seasonal flu, there are steps you can take to prepare for COVID-19 and reduce your risk of infection, including:

  • Washing your hands well and often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Not touching any part of your face, including your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoiding people with suspected or confirmed infections

Anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to COVID-19 or is concerned about flu-like symptoms, such as fever, coughing or trouble breathing, should call their healthcare provider (HCP) and ask for instructions on how to proceed. It’s particularly important to call your doctor or local health department right away if you’ve recently travelled to an affected area, or if you’ve had close contact with someone with a confirmed or suspected infection.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

Sources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), Wuhan, China.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “First Travel-related Case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Detected in United States”
World Health Organization. “Coronavirus.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Coronavirus: Transmission.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “2019 Novel Coronavirus, Wuhan, China.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “2019 Novel Coronavirus, Wuhan, China: Situation Summary.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Coronavirus: Prevention and Treatment.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “2019 Novel Coronavirus, Wuhan, China: Interim Guidance for Healthcare Professionals.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “MERS in the U.S.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Revised U.S. Surveillance Case Definition for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Update on SARS Cases --- United States and Worldwide, December 2003.”
World Health Organization. “Situation report – 13 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)”
National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China. “Commanding China's fight against novel coronavirus outbreak.”
U.S. Department of Homeland Security. "DHS Issues Supplemental Instructions For Inbound Flights With Individuals Who Have Been In China."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "CDC, Washington State Report First COVID-19 Death."
World Health Organization. “Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

 

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