Current Situation of Covid-19 and What You Need to Know
December 31, 2019, a new coronavirus was reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The virus was first noticed in Wuhan, China and has made its way around the world in less than two months. COVID-19 is causing devastation around the world, resulting in school closures, skyrocketing unemployment and straining healthcare systems. Take a closer look at the current state of affairs.
What are the global numbers?
The current global number of active COVID-19 cases is 505 143 with 681 706 confirmed cases in total. The death rate figures range from 1- 4.3%, with even greater estimates dependent on age demographics (the death rate depends on various factors). Most of these cases occurring in people over the ages of 65, people with chronic lung disease or asthma, people with serious heart conditions, those who are immunocompromised and people of any age who suffer from severe obesity. Most cases (96%) cases are mild while approximately 4% are severe.
Despite the drastic increase in cases, there are 146 396 people who have recovered from the disease. The majority of these recoveries are in China, in which only about 4% of people with Covid-19 have died and 73 650 (96%) people have recovered. In Italy, which is in the earlier stages of the virus compared to China, the death rate is 10% and 9 362 people have recovered. Italy has the highest death rate compared to any other country. Most of the individuals who have died are over the age of 70 and many of them have had preexisting illnesses. In addition, Italy has not done extensive testing, only performing tests on those who show more severe symptoms.
A closer look at hard-hit countries around the world
Currently, the regions experiencing the greatest number of new cases and deaths are Italy, Spain, France and the US.
Italy currently has more deaths of Covid-19 than any other country, including China. All of Italy is on lockdown with one of the strictest government enforcements it has ever imposed. This panic is largely triggered by the excessive strain on the healthcare systems and the staggering death rate in the country. Due to the nationwide lockdown imposed March 10, all hotels restaurants, art and entertainment facilities have closed. This is causing unemployment and a projected GDP decrease of 8%.
China had the most cases in the world, however, the rate of new cases has decreased significantly with only 78 new cases March 24 compared to the thousands of confirmed cases every day just a few weeks ago. After approximately 2 months in lockdown, people in cities such as Beijing have started to come outside. Despite social distancing measures, the streets are much busier, public gatherings have started to resume and subways have started to run. In addition, many factories which have been shut down for approximately 2 months are starting to resume. This prompted certain epidemiologists such as Benjamin Cowling, an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong, to predict that the second wave of Covid-19 is ‘inevitable’. To prevent a second wave, China has closed its borders and is limiting some public gatherings.
The US currently has 124 686 cases with 250 new cases today. 2 231 total deaths and 10 new deaths today. Despite the already striking number of cases, Congress’s in-house doctor estimated for about the third of the nation to contract the virus. This estimate, in compliance with those of other healthcare professionals, illustrates the extent of the issue, despite the downplaying of the concern from the White House in attempts to relieve panic from the public. The attending physician of Congress, Dr. Brian Monahan, told Senate chiefs of staff, staff directors, administrative managers and chief clerks from both parties on March 24 that they should prepare for the worst. Forecasting the spread of a virus, however, remains a tricky process, and the range of realistic possibilities is wide.
What are predictions from experts around the world?
Statistical modelling from Harvard epidemiologist alternate predictions that 20–60% of adults worldwide are at risk of contracting the virus. In better light, this estimate accounts for patients that make full recoveries. Monahan told staffers that about 80% of people who contract coronavirus will ultimately be fine.
What kinds of misinformation are going viral — Fake versus Reliable News
How are people misinformed?
With social media thriving, people can access the latest news on the pandemic from their homes in seconds. However, the internet is filled with fake and unreliable news. When people are scared and fearful, they will search for information, not realising that some information they consume is fake. That’s why it is important that we double check the Facebook and Twitter posts, to see if the information is factual. Source.
Why is the public misinformed?
The public is misinformed due to the abundance of false data and others’ opinions. For media companies, fake news can generate a lot of revenue. That’s part of the reason you see bizarre headlines about the pandemic. If these companies get people to click on their article, they will make money. Furthermore, social media is a place where people can share their opinions. So when the public reads or hears these opinions, they assume they are factual, and continue to spread the information. Additionally, partisanship and confusing the public are motives for fake news. Source.
How can this be solved?
The most effective way to stay informed, is by turning away from media companies, and instead focusing on reliable sources. Listen to science and reliable sources such as the CDC, WHO, ECDC, Medicine Plus, National Health Service, the Food and Drug Administration, and major news outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe’s STAT News, Toronto Globe and Mail.Source.
What are the key aspects the resource must include so that people are properly informed?
Fake news usually contains surprising and upsetting information that often triggers anger and anxiety. The motivation behind this is the need for ad revenue. In addition, political interests may seek to damage the reputations of politicians. This kind of partisanship is especially noticeable in the United States during an election year. To identify false information, look for unknown sources, unusual number of endorsements and memes that focus on partisan topics. This is why is it important to fact-check the news and information that comes your way, before panicking and continuing to spread fake news. Source.
While trying to slow the spread of the virus and flatten the curve, businesses around the world are closing their stores, restaurants, and workplaces. With quarantine, the global economy is stalled. As a result, people are losing their jobs, therefore the supply of goods is being limited, if not stopped. Goldman Sachs projects the gross domestic product (GDP) would fall at a 24% rate in the second quarter of the year, meaning almost two-and-a-half times the size of the largest quarterly decline in the history of modern GDP statistics. James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said unemployment could reach 30%.
Economic Impact in China
Despite panic in other parts of the world, the race to normal has swept over China. An increase in social activity is largely due to the country wishing to lessen the economic impact having suffered a 10%-11% GDP contraction which is approximately $1.3 trillion in losses of exports. Wuhan, ground zero of Covid-19, is a major exporter of automobile parts for the country. On January 23, it shut down all of its automobile factories but have just gotten the ‘green’ signal to resume manufacturing after experiencing a 79% decrease in car sales. Due to the inability to manufacture parts and export automobile parts, the European Union automobile industry is projected see a $2.5 billion USD decline. China’s airlines are taking a heavy blow to their sales. Its losses total to 20.96 billion yuan last month, with the total number of passengers falling about 85% year-on-year last month (said China’s aviation regulator). Retail sales went down by 20% and fixed asset investment has gone down 24%.
Economic Impact in the US
As factories close and less money is being spent, the US economy is in decline. For the past 1–2 months, many market indexes have been showing decline, decreasing >1% every day making March the worst month for the US economy since 1987. Many revenue-generating events such as Google I/O, South by Southwest and other major tech conferences have been cancelled. On top of that, social isolation measures prevent factories from continuing operations. This is resulting in a major decline in economic activity and will total to trillions of dollars lost. According to the Citi Private Bank, the US economy can expect a 4%-5% contraction in second quarter (April to June) and corporate profits will decrease by 15% this year. The US Senate just approved a $2 trillion stimulus package to help stabilize the economy and support businesses and households, including the 3.3 million US workers that filed for unemployment claims. Unemployment in the US has never been this high, the highest number before now was 650 000 in the 1982 recession. Economists believe that this number is under-reported as many states experienced overwhelming demand for claim registrations.
Most layoffs are occuring in food and beverage services, followed by clothing and retail. People in grocery stores, pharmacy and delivery do essential work and are least likely to experience unemployment. This economic instability has led to a recession in many countries which is likely to deepen in the coming weeks.
Treatments, Testing and Vaccines
As of right now, many companies are competing to find a vaccine for the newly discovered SARS — Cov — 2 virus. Within weeks of the virus being discovered, Chinese scientists sequenced the virus’s genes and uploaded the information online to help other organizations to look for a cure. Typical vaccines require a damaged or inactive copy of the virus (an antigen), however scientists are instead injecting human cells with the instructions to produce antigen proteins for the immune system to identity and attack. By injecting DNA or RNA into a human cell, instead of injecting an inactive copy of the virus, these vaccines can be created much faster than usual. Some expects predict a vaccine can be found, tested, and move onto the second stage of testing in 16 weeks, but the complete vaccine won’t be ready for at least a year to a year and a half until it will be broadly deployed. Source.
There are many companies and organizations trying to find a COVID-19 vaccine or cure. Some examples are Moderna, SANOFI, Johnson + Johnson. These companies have all made significant progress in finding a vaccine, especially Moderna. They are using a new technique to develop a vaccine, by using mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid). After Chinese scientists uploaded the sequenced virus, Moderna developed a possible vaccine in forty-two days, compared to the vaccine for the SARS outbreak in southern China in 2002, which took twenty months to create.
DarwinAI and Danaher are two companies working on diagnosing. DarwinAI is currently working on an AI model to diagnose patients with Covid-19 using chest radiography images. They currently have 5 941 chest images among 2 839 patients.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved a bedside testing kit produced by Danaher on Saturday, March 21. This bedside testing kit can supposedly return results after only 45 minutes, this is a major improvement compared to current methods which take 48–72 hours.
- The countries worst hit by Covid-19 are China, Italy, Spain and France. Italy having the highest death rate — 10%
- There will be a large economic impact around the world as people remain in quarantine.
- Many companies such as Moderna, DarwinAI and Danaher are currently working on vaccines and diagnostic solutions.