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The USNS Comfort arrives in Manhattan to help treat patients and relieve pressure on local hospitals amid COVID-19 outbreak. James Devaney/Getty Images
  • The new coronavirus disease outbreak, initially identified in China, is continuing to grow.
  • The disease is called COVID-19 and is caused by infection from the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which is one of multiple coronaviruses that can infect humans.
  • Other examples include SARS, MERS, and even the common cold.

  • Globally, more than 850,000 people have contracted the virus in 180 countries and regions.
  • More than 42,000 deaths have occurred.
  • Reported U.S. cases are at least 185,000 with over 3,800 deaths. Cases have been found in all 50 states. Due to limited testing supplies, health experts believe the number of U.S. people with the disease is likely much higher.

Although the COVID-19 outbreak started in China, as of Mar. 31 the United States now has more fatalities from the disease than China, despite having a much smaller population.

There have been more than 3,800 reported deaths due to COVID-19 in the United States, while a little over 3,300 deaths are reported in China.

The United States has reported the most COVID-19 cases in the world at over 185,000.

However, more fatalities related to the disease have been reported in Italy and Spain.

In a press briefing today, experts say even with social distancing measures, deaths in the United States could range from 100,000 to 240,000. Without these measures, deaths could be as high as 2.2 million.

Dr. Deborah Brix, who’s coordinating the White House fight against COVID-19, said the next few weeks would be critical to curbing the steep spread of the virus.

She pointed out that following social distancing guidelines will help save lives and keep sick people from overwhelming hospitals which puts medical staff at risk.

“I know it’s stressful to follow the guidelines, but it is more stressful and more difficult to the soldiers on the front line… there is no magic bullet there is no magic vaccine or therapy,” she said. “It is just our behaviors.”

At the White House briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Americans can try to lower the fatality number by staying home and following social distancing guidelines.

“We are really convinced that mitigation is doing the trick for us,” Fauci told reporters. “We’re seeing little inklings of this in NY. We have to brace ourselves in the next several days and week or so, we are still going to see things go up… we can’t be discouraged.”

However, when asked if Americans should be ready for at least 100,000 deaths in 2 months, Fauci responded, “as sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it.”

However, he said that the more people who observe social distancing, the more likely the fatality rate will be lowered.

“The more we push on the mitigation the less likely it will be that number,” he said. “No one is denying the fact that we are going through a really difficult time right now.”

Models for the fatality numbers vary with one model estimating around 84,000 people could die. That model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington assumes that social distancing measures take place across the country within the next week and continue for the duration of the outbreak.

Another earlier model from the Imperial College of London found that if the United States did nothing to contain the virus, over 2 million Americans could die.

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In London, soldiers get a hospital ready to treat COVID-19 patients. Stefan Rousseau – WPA Pool/Getty Images

In a new poll, most Americans say they’re avoiding public places, mass transit, and both large and small social gatherings.

In the Gallup poll released today, the vast majority of Americans appear to be taking action to reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19.

While there’s still no national stay-at-home order, many states have issued some stay at home or shelter in place orders to try to stop the spread of the virus.

At least 92 percent of Americans said they were avoiding crowds, 90 percent said they were avoiding mass transit, and 78 percent said they were avoiding public places such as stores or restaurants.

The poll also found that 83 percent of Americans say they’re avoiding even small gatherings like dinner with family and friends. This is dramatically higher compared to the middle of this month when just 23 percent of Americans said they were avoiding these gatherings.

In a press conference on Mar. 30, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that it’s likely that the new coronavirus could return this fall even if cases start to go down over the summer.

“In fact I would anticipate that would happen [due to the transmission rate],” Fauci told reporters.

He said that hopefully better testing in addition to potential treatment options could mean the fall outbreak would not be as severe.

That press conference comes one day after President Trump extended national recommendations for Americans to practice social distancing through the end of April.

On Mar. 29, Trump extended the social distancing guidelines to April 30. The guidelines advise avoiding restaurants, bars, and other crowded areas.

Additionally, people are advised to self-quarantine and stay at least 6 feet away from other people to stop the spread of COVID-19.

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A temporary hospital was set up in Central Park in New York to treat people with COVID-19. Stefan Rousseau – WPA Pool/Getty Images Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread across the United States and there’s still no cure for the disease.

In an effort to find new treatments, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of drugs primarily used as anti-malaria treatments in the hopes they may help people with COVID-19.

The FDA announced Mar. 29 that they’re accepting donations of “30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate donated by Sandoz, the Novartis generics and biosimilars division, and one million doses of chloroquine phosphate donated by Bayer Pharmaceuticals.”

The FDA had allowed the use of the drugs under an Emergency Use Authorization. This means physicians are allowed to give this drug to people with COVID-19 even though there hasn’t been extensive clinical testing on its effectiveness as a COVID-19 treatment.

These drugs remain experimental as a treatment for COVID-19, meaning it’s still unclear if they’ll actually help fight the disease. No one should take them without talking to their physician first.

On Saturday, Mar. 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a stark warning advising residents in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to avoid nonessential travel for 14 days.

The CDC issued the warning due to “extensive community transmission of COVID-19 in the area.”

All three states have been hard hit by the virus with New York reporting nearly half of the U.S. COVID-19 cases.

As of Mar. 30, there have been at least 75,000 diagnosed COVID-19 cases in the state and 1,500 deaths, according to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

New outbreaks of COVID-19 are popping up across the country with a spike in reported cases in Chicago, Detroit, and New Orleans, among others.

While cases of COVID-19 had been concentrated in coastal cities in the United States, public health experts are now reporting new hot spots across the country.

Now Louisiana has at least 5,200 cases, according to the health department. At least 1,400 cases have been centered around the New Orleans area, just weeks after thousands of people celebrated in the streets for Mardi Gras.

In Michigan, cases rose to over 6,400 up from 324 earlier in March.

In Illinois there have been over 5,000 reported cases up from 2,500 reported cases on Friday, Mar. 27.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, even heads of state are not safe. On Mar. 27, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, announced he had tested positive for the virus.

In a video posted on Twitter, Johnson said, “I’ve developed mild symptoms… a temperature and a persistent cough.”

Johnson said on the advice of his physician he took a COVID-19 test and was positive.

“I am working from home, I’m self-isolating, and that’s entirely the right thing to do,” he said.

Contracting COVID-19 is an overriding worry for just about everyone, and we’re all doing our best to avoid it.

But there’s an important question that must be answered before we can declare victory over this virus. Can we become immune?

“Coronaviruses aren’t new, they’ve been around for a long, long time and many species — not just humans — get them. So we know a fair amount about coronaviruses in general,” Dr. Stephen Gluckman, an infectious diseases physician at Penn Medicine and the medical director of Penn Global Medicine told the Huffington Post.

“For the most part, the feeling is once you’ve had a specific coronavirus, you are immune. We don’t have enough data to say that with this coronavirus, but it is likely,” he said.

However, according to the CDC, the immune response to COVID-19 is “poorly understood,” and although people with MERS-CoV aren’t expected to become reinfected after recovery, “it is not yet known whether similar immune protection will be observed for patients with COVID-19.”

In New York City, a Mount Sinai West nurse who had been treating COVID-19 patients died Mar. 24, one week after being admitted to hospital with COVID-19, reported NBC New York.

This news highlights the danger of protective gear shortages in hospitals as the crisis continues. A New York Post story reported that Mount Sinai workers were seen on social media improvising protective gear from garbage bags.

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Members of the National Guard prepare the Javits center for patients with COVID-19. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

On Mar. 24, the FDA announced that a process known as plasma-derived therapy or “convalescent plasma,” would be expedited as a potential treatment for people with COVID-19.

The idea is that blood plasma from people who have beaten the infection contains antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — that may be effective against it.

New York plans to be the first state to treat critically ill patients using these antibodies as another weapon against the ongoing pandemic.

New York is also set to start a clinical trial for two drugs already used for other diseases: hydroxychloroquine (used against malaria) and the antibiotic azithromycin.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced Mar. 16 that a Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating an investigational vaccine to protect against COVID-19 has begun at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.

“Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent public health priority,” said Dr. Fauci, in a statement. “This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal.”

The heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, has tested positive for the virus according to reports.

The 71 year old is reportedly not hospitalized and “otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual.”

His wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, tested negative for the virus. The U.K. has been put on a virtual lockdown with gatherings of more than two people currently banned.

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National guard members prepare to help fight COVID-19. Getty Images

The 2020 Summer Olympic Games have officially been postponed.

In a statement on Mar. 24, the International Olympic Committee President and Japan Prime Minister said the games would need to be moved due to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.

While the new date was not specified, officials said it wouldn’t be later than summer 2021.

While the number of COVID-19 cases in Japan are currently around 1,300, experts had been alarmed at the idea of tens of thousands of athletes and spectators congregating from all over the world for the athletic event.

As the new coronavirus disease outbreak continues to put countries into lockdown, experts said holding the games could result in a jump in cases.

On Mar. 20, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a global ‘megatrial,’ called SOLIDARITY. The trial will discover if any of four existing drugs can treat the new coronavirus.

According to Science, the four drugs include:

  • remdesivir, an experimental antiviral compound
  • chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, malaria medications
  • lopinavir and ritonavir, a combination of HIV drugs
  • lopinavir and ritonavir, plus interferon-beta, an immune system messenger that can cripple viruses

“It will be important to get answers quickly, to try to find out what works and what doesn’t work. We think that randomized evidence is the best way to do that,” said Dr. Ana Maria Henao-Restrepo, medical officer at the WHO’s Department of Immunization Vaccines and Biologicals, in a statement.

The American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS), recently proposed that a loss of smell should be added to the list of screening tools for COVID-19 due to “evidence accumulating from cases worldwide.”

Absent of other respiratory diseases such as allergic rhinitis (hayfever) or acute or chronic sinus inflammation, this symptom “should alert physicians to the possibility of COVID-19 and warrant serious consideration for self-isolation and testing of these individuals,” the AAO-HNS said in a statement.

No, the new coronavirus is not the flu. In fact, it can present very differently from that seasonal virus.

We spoke to experts about how you can identify the different symptoms for COVID-19, the flu, and spring allergies.

For the first time, a U.S. senator has tested positive for the new coronavirus disease. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul announced via Twitter on Mar. 22 he had contracted the virus.

According to the announcement, Paul “feels fine” but is not sure how he might have contracted it.

Paul has been at the Senate this week as congress works on passing a relief bill designed to aid Americans amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Currently, there are widespread reports of hospitals rationing medical equipment like face masks even as they treat people with COVID-19.

One registered nurse who works in the emergency room in a rural Oregon hospital told Healthline that they were being ordered to ration key protective gear even though they were seeing many patients with symptoms of COVID-19.

“Right now we’re only being allowed one mask per shift. One surgical mask which is not the best practice recommendation for this virus,” said the nurse, who wished to remain anonymous because they weren’t authorized to speak by the hospital.

“We can only get another mask if ours becomes soiled. We are being severely limited by the lack of protective equipment,” they said.

In New York City, hospitals report running out of beds and supplies with a crush of patients arriving with symptoms.

Cuomo said that multiple apparel companies have reached out hoping to help produce surgical masks or hospital gowns.

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The area near Grand Central Terminal in New York City is nearly empty amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Getty Images

California was the first state to order residents to stay at home except for essential errands.

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Mar. 19 that he’s implementing a “stay at home” order that effectively puts a state of nearly 40 million people into lockdown.

The news comes the same day that Newsom said in a letter that “56 percent” of state residents could contract COVID-19 if no steps were taken to stop the disease.

In a televised statement, Newsom said that the step was necessary to fight the outbreak.

“If we meet this moment we can truly bend the curve,” Newsom said, referencing the need to stop high levels of severe infection that would overwhelm the healthcare system.

Exemptions to the order would be made for people who need to go to the grocery store, go to the pharmacy, or attend to other essentials. People would also be allowed to walk outside if they’re still practicing social distancing.

Last weekend, the Governor of Illinois implemented a similar “shelter in place” order and in New York, Cuomo implemented “Matilda’s Law” named after his mother, designed to keep seniors and vulnerable people protected by keeping nonessential workers at home.

The State Department is issuing a Level 4 order that Americans avoid travel abroad.

Level 4 is the highest warning issued by the state department. The news comes as COVID-19 cases in the United States and abroad keep rising.

“In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” read a statement from the state department.

Additionally, President Trump said that the United States and Mexico have jointly decided to close the border to nonessential travel as COVID-19 continues to spread.

The news comes the same day that the U.S. border with Canada closed down to nonessential travel. Some exceptions will be made and trade will not be impacted by the order.

President Trump declared a national emergency in response to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.

The declaration will allow the government to use $50 billion earmarked for disaster relief to combat the crisis.

Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be able to coordinate with local and state leaders to help better manage the outbreak.

He emphasized that the emergency orders he’s issuing will confer broad new authority to the secretary of Health and Human Services, allowing him to “immediately waive provisions of applicable laws and regulations to give doctors, hospitals, all hospitals, and healthcare providers maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and care for patients.”

He stated that the Administration has been in discussions with pharmacies and retailers to make ‘drive-through’ testing available in critical locations identified by public health professionals. “The goal is for individuals to be able to drive up and be swabbed without having to leave your car.”

South Korea, widely praised for its testing measures, has been using drive-through sites to great effect, according to CNN, and New York State is one of the first states to introduce the practice so far.

Trump announced the creation of a screening website, to be designed by Google, that will enable visitors to fill out a screening questionnaire, check symptoms and risk factors, and if found necessary — be informed where the nearest drive-through facility is located for them to receive the test.

However, later in the day, reports surfaced that the website was not yet functional and that Google may not have been aware Trump would be announcing their involvement during the press conference.

Across the country, people who have been exposed to the virus are entering quarantine.

Two families in New Rochelle, New York where a cluster of COVID-19 cases was found talk about their experience being stuck at home during a pandemic.

The NBA has suspended the rest of the season after two players on the Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus. Players on five other teams the Jazz played in recent days will also need to be quarantined.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a ban on gatherings of 500 people, which effectively means all shows on Broadway will be canceled.

The President of the NCAA announced that the iconic March Madness basketball tournament will also be canceled.

We talked to experts about why it’s key to shut down these major events in order to stop the spread of the virus.

The WHO officially declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic on Mar. 11.

Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, pointed out that cases outside of China have increased “13-fold” in just 2 weeks.

A new study examined 9 people with the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. The researchers wanted to understand virus shedding (when the virus leaves its host) during illness to determine how infectious the disease may be.

Conducted by German researchers, though not yet peer-reviewed, the findings suggest that viral shedding occurred in high levels from the throat during early phases of illness for the patients studied.

However, the rate of shedding dropped after the fifth day in all patients except for two experiencing signs of pneumonia. They continued to shed COVID-19 at high levels until the 10th or 11th day, according to researchers.

“The present study shows that COVID-19 can often present as a common cold-like illness. SARS-CoV-2 can actively replicate in the upper respiratory tract, and is shed for a prolonged time after symptoms end, including in stool,” the study authors wrote.

Scientists also found that people with COVID-19 may shed over 1,000 times more virus than emitted during peak shedding of the 2003 SARS infection. They say this could explain why COVID-19 has spread so rapidly.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed publicly available data to find COVID-19 has roughly a 5-day incubation period from exposure to onset of symptoms.

The analysis also suggests that about 98 percent of people who develop symptoms will do so within 11.5 days of exposure.

Researchers said this average time from exposure to onset of symptoms suggests that the CDC’s 14-day quarantine period for people who were likely exposed to the virus is reasonable.

“Based on our analysis of publicly available data, the current recommendation of 14 days for active monitoring or quarantine is reasonable, although with that period some cases would be missed over the long-term,” said senior study author Justin Lessler, PhD, associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a statement.

Another recent study from Sun Yat-sen University in China has discovered that SARS-CoV-2 may have an ideal temperature at which it spreads most easily.

Researchers analyzed the cumulative number of all confirmed cases in all affected cities and regions from Jan. 20 to Feb. 4, 2020. Their findings suggest it spreads most easily at about 48°F (8.89°C).

“The study found that, to certain extent, temperature could significant[ly] change COVID-19 transmission, and there might be a best temperature for the viral transmission, which may partly explain why it first broke out in Wuhan,” wrote the study authors. “It is suggested that countries and regions with a lower temperature in the world adopt the strictest control measures to prevent future reversal.”

The CDC now estimates that over the next year, many people in the United States will be exposed to SARS-CoV-2. However, most won’t be severely affected.

“It’s fair to say that, as the trajectory of the outbreak continues, many people in the United States will at some point in time, either this year or next, be exposed to this virus. And there’s a good chance many will become sick,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), said in a telebriefing with reporters on Mar. 9.

“But again, based on what we know about this virus, we do not expect most people to develop serious illness,” Messonnier added.

Messionnier also warned that people who are at high risk, including people older than 60 or those with underlying health conditions, should start to prepare for the outbreak by stocking up on supplies in case they get sick or don’t want to venture out in the community for groceries.

In Italy, where cases of COVID-19 have soared, the government is effectively locking down the country.

The prime minister of Italy declared that virtually all commerce will be banned except for grocery stores and pharmacies.

Recently, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus called on countries to make fighting the disease their “highest priority.”

Public health experts have advised people to stop touching their face to cut down on your risk of contracting the new coronavirus. But that’s easier said than done.

We talked to experts who told us how we can train ourselves to avoid touching our face constantly. More information can be found here.

Health officials have been trying to stop the virus from spreading widely in the United States, but multiple cases of unknown origin have been detected across the country.

The federal government recently passed an $8.3 billion aid bill to provide funds to help fight the outbreak.

A new summary found that one way to slow the disease may be by simply getting a thorough travel history from patients.

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Healthcare workers prepare to evacuate residents from a nursing home in Washington. Getty Images

In a press briefing, officials from the WHO said the fatality rate for COVID-19 may be higher than previously realized.

Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, said in a statement that SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t appear to spread as efficiently as the flu.

“This virus is not SARS, it’s not MERS, and it’s not influenza. It is a unique virus with unique characteristics,” he said.

But it may be more deadly.

“Globally, about 3.4 percent of reported COVID-19 cases have died,” he said. “By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected.”

He pointed out one reason for those different fatality rates is that there are vaccines and antiviral medications to help treat flu symptoms. But nothing yet for COVID-19.

Additionally, he said that according to evidence from China, only 1 percent of COVID-19 cases have no symptoms, and many people develop symptoms later on.

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“Corona” in coronavirus refers to the shape that can resemble a crown. Getty Images

As the outbreak continues to spread, there are ways you can prepare. Among them is simply stocking up your medicine cabinet with over-the-counter cold and flu medications.

While they can’t cure the virus, they can help relieve symptoms of mild cases.

Researchers are studying how people with the virus shed it and what impact it’s having on affected populations.

One new study has found answers that many won’t find comforting.

Testing and confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 infection is currently carried out by oral swabs. But research published Feb. 17 in Emerging Microbes & Infections finds evidence that there’s an oral-fecal transmission route.

The scientists reported that viruses’ genetic material can be detected in both anal swabs and blood samples. Crucially, evidence of the new coronavirus was found in anal swabs and blood — even when it wasn’t detected using oral swabs.

According to the study, this was particularly true for those patients receiving supportive care for several days.

Although medical staff, people with illnesses, and older adults are most at risk, more than 80 percent of COVID-19 cases have been mild, according to a new report from the Chinese CDC.

Hubei province in China, where the infection is believed to have originated, is the hardest hit, according to the report.

The province’s death rate is almost 3 percent, compared with just under a half percent in the rest of the country.

One of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of illnesses like COVID-19 or the flu is simple: Encourage employees to stay home when they’re sick.

But since the United States doesn’t have a national paid sick leave policy, taking a sick day remains a financial sacrifice for 32 million workers who lack paid sick leave benefits.

Without paid sick leave, workers are more likely to come into work sick, exposing their co-workers to an illness. This means if SARS-CoV-2 starts spreading widely in the United States, it could be difficult to stop.

The WHO announced Feb. 11 in a tweet that the disease from this new coronavirus will now be called COVID-19. The virus itself is called SARS-CoV-2.

Previously, it had been called 2019nCoV, although many media outlets referred to the virus simply as coronavirus — even though that refers to a larger family of viruses.

Experts are still learning a lot about this new virus. But some have hoped that warmer weather will mean a drop in cases, similar to how flu season ends in the spring.

But medical experts warn it’s too soon to tell whether the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak will diminish this summer.

Because it’s a totally new virus, people lack immunity, so even in warm weather months it may still spread across the globe.

Since SARS-CoV-2 is so new, there’s currently no cure. But doctors have been able to use supportive care and other antivirals to try to help patients.

Early studies show some evidence that certain medications, including those that treat HIV, may help fight the virus.

Multiple organizations are already working on a vaccine for the new coronavirus, but it’s unlikely to be widely released within the year.

That’s because rigorous testing is needed to ensure that the vaccine is both safe and effective.

Experts are still investigating, but early research suggests the virus originated in bats and then was transmitted to humans via an intermediary animal.

What’s the intermediary animal? Potentially a snake or type of anteater called a pangolin.

A global outbreak is frightening enough for adults. For kids, it can be overwhelming.

We talked to experts about the best way for parents to talk to their kids about what’s going on and how to reassure them.

Parents should also check in with themselves and consider how their fears may be influencing their children.

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Not sure you have COVID-19? Here are the symptoms outlined.