May Day! COVID Chronicles 5-1-2020

Hello stranger!  What better time to post an update to this blog than when we are all stuck at home in quarantine?  These are unprecedented times we are living in, my friends. We are quickly approaching the 3rd month of society’s shutdown and stay-at-home orders from our local and federal government. These orders, along with social distancing guidelines, are the best measures to mitigate the spread of the novel Coronavirus pandemic that has taken over the world since the beginning of the year.  By many indications, the first cases of the virus originated overseas late last year in the Far East.  Unfortunately, since the virus’ arrival here in the U.S., we were slow to react and have been playing catch-up from the beginning.  This was due to a combination of factors, including possible inaccurate data and a delay in communications from international sources. But more importantly, and disconcertingly, our federal government’s incompetence in dealing with the severity of this pandemic is largely to blame.  The Trump administration scoffed at the seriousness of Covid-19 in the beginning and likened it to the common flu, saying that it will more than likely go away on its own.  On February 27th, Trump exclaims in a White House briefing “It’s going to disappear,” “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”*^  His administration’s refusal to acknowledge the virus as an imminent pandemic continued into late February and early March, even after numerous warnings from international and federal health officials since the beginning of January**^.  It was not until the World Health Organization officially declared it as a global pandemic on March 11th that President Trump subsequently declared a national emergency on March 13th.*^  This excerpt from aptly describes the response: “For weeks after the first U.S. case of the coronavirus was confirmed in January, government missteps caused a shortage of reliable laboratory tests for the coronavirus, leading to delays in diagnoses.”**^^

Based on the data and science gathered, the people most vulnerable to this virus are the elderly and immunocompromised. But the truth is, it can cause harm and even be fatal to anyone at any age or condition. We can have the virus, have mild or no symptoms whatsoever, and be a silent carrier unknowingly infecting others. We just don’t know how it will affect any one individual.  For the majority of people that require hospitalization from this illness, it infects the respiratory system and causes fever, severe coughing and swelling in the lungs.  It can cause pneumonia and severely inhibit the victim’s ability to breathe, to the point where they need to be put on a ventilator.  And in the very worst cases, they never come off that ventilator and succumb to the disease.    

It has been a struggle for society as a whole to have enough testing and treatments to keep up with the rampant spread of this illness. It is now a race against time to come up with a viable treatment to slow the effects of this virus, let alone a vaccine to prevent and cure it.  And there is a glimmer of hope in regards to possible treatments, as they announced today that the antiviral medication “Remdesivir” has shown some promise in clinical trials. It has just been granted Emergency Use Authorization (“EUA”) by the FDA as an emergency treatment that can possibly quicken the recovery times of those infected by Covid-19.  Remdesivir was previously tested as a possible treatment for the Ebola outbreak back in 2014 ^.  There is also a possible vaccine coming to the forefront that is currently being researched by Oxford University in England.  The university is partnering with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to develop the drug in large scale, should it prove to be effective against Covid-19 in humans.  Results of the drug’s effects on several hundred people that were vaccinated should be complete by mid-June 2020 ^^.

As of 3:50pm on 5/1/2020, there are 3,321,402 confirmed Covid-19 infections worldwide, with 237,180 total deaths in 187 countries*. Unfortunately, America has the most cases of, and most deaths from, this virus in the world. In the United States, the national deathtoll due to this pandemic is now a very sobering 64,203 out of a total of 1,091,038 positive U.S. cases*. The country with the 2nd most confirmed novel coronavirus infections is Spain with 213,435 people infected, less than 20% of what the U.S. has.* What makes America beautiful is that it’s the land of freedom, dreams and opportunity. But what makes our country such an attractive destination, and such a melting pot for humans worldwide, also makes us the most vulnerable during global pandemics. And nowhere is this more evident than where we are in New York City, the epicenter of this crisis. In NYC alone there have been a total of 174,921 cases thus far and 18,399 deaths**. For perspective, there were 2,977 casualties from the 9/11 attacks in 2001 – an event many of us thought would be the worst disaster we would ever see on US soil during our lifetimes. The Vietnam War had 58,220 American deaths* over a span of 11 years. The current Coronavirus deathtoll has eclipsed them both, as the number of deaths continue to climb daily. Since 2010, the average total deaths from the common flu (influenza) in America is between 12,000 to 61,000***. It is now painfully clear that this is not like the common flu, not even close. 

Personally, I am on Day 51 of self-imposed lockdown and have barely been outside, aside from a handful of grocery runs and short walks for fresh air. And of course, no excursion to the warzone outside that is the streets of NYC can be taken without the combat gear of facemask and gloves. And currently in NY State, by law, you must wear some sort of mask or face covering when out in public through May 15th.  There’s only so many newscasts one can stand, and a finite number of shows and movies we can binge on Netflix before starting to go stir crazy. Cabin fever is a real phenomenon, as I’m sure the majority of people can relate to at this point. But I’d rather deal with cabin fever at home than a 105 degree fever while on a ventilator in a hospital with Covid-19.  Or worse than that, unwittingly infect an elderly family member and send them to the hospital. 

The news right now is not all bad though, because there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel.  Many areas are showing signs that the rate of infection is slowing and the number of new infections and deaths are on the decline.  As a result, many states are looking into plans to re-open the economy and allow non-essential businesses to resume operations.  In NYC, the U.S. Naval hospital ship “Comfort” has left the shores of New York because we no longer need it for an overflow of Covid-19 patients since cases are on the decline.  After treating close to 1100 patients, the last remaining patient infected with the Coronavirus located at the Jacob Javits Center was discharged today, and the temporary US Army hospital at the event center is now closed.  This is all a direct result of most of the country’s shut-down of non-essential businesses, and restrictions put in place by public health and government officials to encourage all citizens to stay home to stop the spread of this disease.  We are, however, not clear of danger yet and we must not be complacent.  If we don’t collectively continue to follow public health and social distancing guidelines, things can become worse again before they get better.  

There are obvious heroes that have emerged from this global crisis, and they are the brave doctors, nurses, healthcare workers and first responders who are risking their own lives to care for the victims of this pandemic.  They are the true definition of selflessness, compassion and humanity.  Bravo.  All the other essential workers, grocery store and pharmacy employees, train and bus drivers, etc. deserve praise as well.  Thank you for sacrificing your well-being to keep us functioning as a society during these crazy times.  Thinking of them makes it all the more infuriating when you see the imbeciles in some areas forming large mobs of people in the streets, protesting their town’s lockdown and screaming through megaphones for their town to re-open.  And of course, many of them are not wearing masks to prevent the spread of any virus – and most, if not all, are standing within inches of each other.  Even if they do not care about endangering their own health, it is this type of irresponsible, selfish and ignorant behavior that can prolong this crisis and make things worse for everyone else.  

So Stay Home, Stay Safe.  If you must go out, cover your face!  Wear your gloves!  Stay 6 feet apart!  And wash those hands!  

This too shall pass…We will get through this, but we must do it as a team…from home.    

*^‘It will disappear’: the disinformation Trump spread about the coronavirus – timeline

‘It will disappear’: the disinformation Trump spread about the coronavir…Tom McCarthyThe president was personally warned about the growing crisis beginning in mid-January – but continued to give fa…
**^  As Trump administration debated travel restrictions, thousands streamed in from China

As Trump administration debated travel restrictions, thousands streamed …Katherine EbanIn defending his strategy against the deadly coronavirus, President Donald Trump repeatedly has said he slowed i…
**^^Trump’s ban on China travel: his claims vs. the facts

Trump’s ban on China travel: his claims vs. the factsAssociated PressTrump’s order was not solely his decision nor did it fully close the U.S. off to China, the Associated Press sta…

*  COVID-19 global stats & data from Johns Hopkins University**  Covid-19 U.S. and NYC data from John’s Hopkins University & The New York Times
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