Outside of scientists, researchers, and those who report on and closely follow these industries, many of us were unprepared for COVID-19, a World Health Organization–classified pandemic that originated in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, and has since spread throughout the world. There are confirmed cases everywhere from South Africa and Kenya to Argentina and Cuba to Iceland and Norway to Afghanistan and Morocco to Bangladesh and the Maldives and to the United States, Australia, and many other countries. Though we’ve faced other pandemics in the past, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and the Ebola virus in 2014, there are few viruses whose impact has been proportionate to the scale of COVID-19.
According to research compiled by John Hopkins University, there have been more than 137,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 throughout the world, and more than 5,000 deaths resulting from the virus. The World Health Organization has declared Europe the “epicenter” of the pandemic, leading Donald Trump to suspend travel between the United States and Europe for 30 days. (Though he has, conveniently, omitted from the suspension countries in which he owns resort property.) Schools across the nation are closing and college students are being asked to leave campus and complete their school work remotely for the remainder of the semester. Walt Disney World has closed its locations in the United States. And all signs point to this being only the beginning of the pandemic.
Fear is both warranted and understandable right now. We are facing an insidious virus that will likely wreak havoc on our lives for months—and possibly a year—to come. We are also behind the curve on both preparedness and testing because of the inaction of a president who has uttered lie after lie in an effort to protect both the stock market and his own reelection campaign. But we are not helpless. Educating ourselves is the first step: Once we know what we’re facing, we can act.
- Though the terms “coronavirus” and “COVID-19” are often used interchangeably, they’re not exactly the same. [Teen Vogue]
- COVID-19, which has been categorized as a “cousin of the SARS virus,” saw its first outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December, and has since spread throughout the world, including South Korea, Italy, and now, the United States. [CNN]
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 160 million and 214 million people in the United States may be infected by COVID-19 over the course of a few months and possibly a year. Between 200,000 and 1.7 million people in the United States could die. [New York Times]
- Symptoms range from coughing, fever, and breathing issues to pneumonia and organ failure; unfortunately, many people who have contracted the virus do not show any symptoms. COVID-19 can’t be treated with antibiotics because it’s a viral, rather than a bacterial infection; and recovery is heavily dependent on each person’s immune system. [New York Times, Guardian]
- The CDC notes that older adults, people with chronic medical conditions and who are immunosuppressed, and pregnant people are at high risk for both contracting COVID-19 and experiencing more severe symptoms. [STAT, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]
- Self-quarantining is highly recommended for those who are showing symptoms. That includes “social distancing”—in other words, avoiding crowds, not gathering in close quarters with others, and keeping several feet of distance between yourself and others. Working from home, if possible, is recommended, as is canceling all nonessential travel and rescheduling routine medical appointments. Frequent handwashing and sanitizing surfaces are both emphasized. [Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic]
- Social distancing, while necessary, will likely result in a loneliness epidemic impacting those who are at most at risk of contracting COVID-19. While this something we should all be concerned with, it’s still important to encourage people to self-quarantine and avoid crowded places, if at all possible. [Vox, BuzzFeed]
- A number of sports leagues, including the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association, have either postponed or canceled the remainder of their games. [ESPN]
- Cities around the United States are closing schools to try to ease the spread of COVID-19. This is creating a paradox for parents who want to keep their children safe, college students who don’t want to contract COVID-19, and grandparents who may be regular childcare providers but may be unable to house and feed their children or themselves. [Washington Post, Boston Globe]
- Prisons face a uniquely dangerous challenge: Confinement, overcrowding, and poorly ventilated buildings are likely to be a danger to inmates and staff. Visits have been suspended, as have inmate transfers. [NPR]
- The United States government is seemingly unprepared for an epidemic of this magnitude, especially given that the president disbanded the White House’s office on pandemic preparedness and has repeatedly proposed cutting funding to the CDC. [MSNBC, Intelligencer]
- While Donald Trump has officially announced a national statement of emergency, testing protocols are still unclear, and there’s still a lack of paid family leave, which makes it impossible for some people to call off from work. [NBC News, The Atlantic, ABC News]
- There may be hope on the horizon, though: The House of Representatives and the White House have come to an agreement on a coronavirus relief bill that may expand paid sick leave. [Vox]
WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW
Stock up on essential supplies, including toilet paper, paper towel, handsoap, trash bags, and water. Don’t hoard supplies, though. Save some for those who need it. [USA Today]
School closures also mean food insecurity for low-income students who depend on meal programs. Donations to local food banks will help make up the shortfall for families as schools and jobs close. [Intelligencer]
Stay home if you can. If you have trips planned, cancel them. If you had plans with friends, set up a virtual video call instead. Reschedule your book clubs, bachelorette parties, and movie dates. Limiting contact with others is crucial to preventing COVID-19 from spreading more quickly. [Vox]
- Know where to get tested for COVID-19. There are not enough tests for every single person, so the CDC is only encouraging people with symptoms to seek tests. [NPR]
- Above all else, take care of your neighbor as you’d want them to take care of you. None of us will know if the precautions we’ve taken will actually help, but it’s still worth a shot. [BuzzFeed]
- We plan to continue covering the impact of coronavirus, so please consider donating to Bitch Media today or joining The Rage, a community of folks reclaiming their anger and supporting independent feminist media. [Bitch Media]