In February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the United States should brace for a domestic coronavirus outbreak. Throughout the month of March, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. rose dramatically, and the U.S. now has the highest confirmed case count in the world. As of Wednesday, at least 397,754 people across every state, Washington, D.C., and four territories have tested positive for the disease.
Globally, more than 1.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in 177 countries, with at least 83,000 deaths so far. In March, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and President Trump declared a national state of emergency. As of Wednesday morning, nearly 13,000 patients with the virus have died in the U.S.
Here’s everything we know about the spread of the virus in the U.S. so far.
How many new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the U.S.?
As of April 8, there are at least 397,754 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., and at least 12,956 patients with the virus have died. Thousands of new cases are being reported every day, and 1,997 people died on Tuesday alone, the highest single-day death toll since the outbreak began. The rate of diagnosis has accelerated dramatically as a number of states have expanded their testing capacity. Yet the New York Times reports that there’s still huge variation in the rates of testing among states, and that the total number of infected individuals, as well as the true death toll from the virus, is likely much higher than the official count.
New York has had by far the largest outbreak in the country, with at least 140,081 confirmed cases and 6,298 deaths as of Wednesday. However, those numbers do not include the people who have died at home without being tested for the virus, which New York City mayor Bill de Blasio estimated on Wednesday was between “100 to 200 people a day” in the city. New Jersey is also among the states that have been hardest hit by the virus, along with California and Michigan. Washington State had some of the country’s earliest confirmed cases, with 37 deaths from the virus linked to an outbreak of COVID-19 at a long-term-care facility, the Life Care Center, in Kirkland, Washington. Louisiana recently experienced a sudden spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases, which experts suspect could be linked to Mardi Gras celebrations, which concluded on February 25. Though the vast majority of confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 have been in cities and suburbs, the New York Times reported this week that coronavirus has officially reached more than two-thirds of the country’s rural counties, where cases are growing fast.
What measures are being taken to limit the spread of coronavirus?
As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has continued to rise, a growing number of states have announced drastic measures to slow the spread of the virus. As of April 7, officials in 42 states have urged residents to stay at home, including Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, advocated last week for every state to issue a stay-at-home order.
These “stay-at-home” orders require residents to stay in their homes except for essential activities, which include buying food, seeking medical treatment, and exercising outdoors, provided they stay six feet away from anyone not part of their household. Medical professionals, caregivers, public-safety officials, sanitation workers, and other essential workers, such as those who work in grocery stores and pharmacies, are exempt.
The widespread lockdowns have already had serious economic consequences: A record 6.6. million Americans filed for unemployment benefits during the last week in March, and the Labor Department reported the loss of 10 million jobs. Though President Trump had previously questioned whether the economic toll of stay-at-home orders was worth it, on March 29, he announced that Americans must continue to avoid nonessential travel, going to work, eating at bars and restaurants, and gathering in groups of more than ten for at least another month, and possibly until June.
Dr. Deborah Birx, who is coordinating the nation’s coronavirus response, said last week that strict adherence to social-distancing guidelines, like statewide stay-at-home orders, is the most effective way to slow the spread of the virus. However, even with such restrictions, officials have warned that the death toll in the U.S. could be as high as 100,000 to 240,000. Speaking last week, President Trump told Americans to brace themselves for a “very, very painful two weeks.”
As of this week, 43 states have ordered schools closed, and seven states have recommended schools close. In New York City, the largest school district in the country, public schools will remain closed until at least April 20, though Mayor Bill de Blasio said there was a strong chance they would not reopen before the end of the school year. The mayor has said that some schools will reopen as “enrichment centers” to provide services to vulnerable children, including homeless students and those with special needs, and that the city would open centers to provide child care for the children of health-care and emergency workers.
On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo expressed cautious optimism that the virus appears to be nearing its peak in New York, after the state reported lower death tolls on Sunday and Monday for the first time since the outbreak began. However, a record number of people in the state died from the virus in the following two days, with Cuomo reporting another 779 deaths on Wednesday. Still, Cuomo pointed to the decreasing rate of hospitalizations as a sign that the spread of the virus may be plateauing, though he has warned that the situation remains dire and that residents should stay vigilant about following social-distancing rules.
Cuomo said on Monday that New York is no longer currently in need of ventilators after receiving additional medical devices from California, Oregon, and elsewhere. Previously, both Cuomo and de Blasio have criticized the federal government for not taking sufficient action to provide needed medical equipment and supplies, though on Monday de Blasio thanked the Trump administration for sending the city 600,000 N95 masks. Cuomo also said this week that President Trump had approved his request to use the USNS Comfort, a naval hospital ship docked in Manhattan, to treat coronavirus patients.
What is the federal government doing to fight coronavirus?
In February, President Donald Trump put Vice-President Mike Pence — a man with a frankly dismal track record in public health — in charge of the coronavirus response, assuring the public that the White House is “very, very ready for this.”
In March, President Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, effectively freeing up to $50 billion in federal funds to help states and territories fight the spread of the virus, which he said would include expanding access to testing.
Still, there have been many issues with the availability of the coronavirus test. Some people say they’ve been denied tests, and even though Pence announced on March 3 that anyone in the country can be tested for coronavirus, subject to doctor’s orders, the rate of testing still varies widely from state to state.
On March 19, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. would close its borders with Canada and Mexico, barring entry to all nonessential travelers. The announcement was the latest in an increasing list of travel restrictions. President Trump has also barred entry of all foreign nationals who have been in high-risk countries, including China, Iran, and much of Europe, within the last 14 days. The CDC has advised against all nonessential travel throughout most of Europe, South Korea, China, and Iran, and has advised older and at-risk Americans to avoid travel to any country. Last week, the CDC issued a travel advisory for residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, asking them to “refrain from non-essential domestic travel” for 14 days.
On March 27, President Trump signed a $2 trillion stimulus plan, the largest in modern American history. The plan will send direct payments of around $1,200 to millions of Americans who earn less than $99,000, along with an additional $500 per child. The plan will also substantially expand unemployment benefits, including extending eligibility to freelance and gig workers, and provide aid to businesses and companies in distress. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has also extended the tax-filing deadline to July 15.
President Trump has also signed a relief package to establish paid emergency leave for some American workers, expand food assistance, medical aid, and unemployment benefits, and offer free coronavirus testing. The U.S. House and Senate reached a deal last month to provide $8.3 billion in emergency funding to stop the spread of the coronavirus. According to the Washington Post, the money will go toward the development of a vaccine, public-health funding, medical supplies, and research of coronavirus in other countries. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has said it will take around 18 months to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.
On March 24, Trump triggered the defense production act for the first time, kickstarting the emergency manufacture of test kits and masks. He has also used the DPA to spur General Motors to make ventilators — which it was already doing — reportedly without providing specifications as to type or quantity. And on Monday, Trump announced that the administration had reached an agreement with 3M: the company will begin production on what the president said would be about 166.5 million masks, almost all of them N95 respirators.
What should I do to minimize my coronavirus risk?
In most cases, COVID-19 is not fatal, but it appears to pose the greatest risk to elderly people and those with preexisting conditions that compromise their immune systems. The New York Times reports that among those who have died in the U.S., almost all have been in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. However, a recent report by the CDC found that American adults of all ages have been seriously sickened by the virus, noting that 38 percent of American patients who have been hospitalized with the virus were between the ages of 20 and 54. Doctors and medical workers may also be at greater risk, due to their higher-than-average odds of exposure, and preliminary data suggests that black Americans may be dying at disproportionate rates. As the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. continues to rise, the CDC has urged people to prepare for the worst: Stock up on supplies — medicine, nonperishable foods, toilet paper, etc. — and fastidiously wash your hands.
On Friday, President Trump said that the CDC is now recommending that Americans wear masks when they are out in public, though he stressed that the guidelines were voluntary, and said he would not wear a mask himself. Officials in New York have also advised residents to wear cloth masks or cover their faces with scarves or bandannas when leaving their homes, emphasizing that surgical and N95 masks should be reserved for health-care workers, and Los Angeles has ordered residents to wear masks when visiting essential businesses, starting Friday. The new guidance on masks seems to be driven in part by concern about the number of asymptomatic individuals who may be infected and transmitting the virus. Speaking on Sunday, Fauci estimated that between 25 and 50 percent of those infected with the virus may not experience any symptoms.
If you have symptoms associated with coronavirus — coughing, fever, respiratory issues — call your doctor before showing up at their office: The virus is highly contagious and you want to limit the possibility of spreading it. If you are sick, the CDC recommends that you stay home and self-isolate, confining yourself to one room as much as possible and wearing a face mask when you have to interact with others. Wash your hands frequently — soap and water and at least 20 seconds of scrubbing — and avoid touching shared household items, cleaning “high-touch” surfaces (like your phone) regularly. Your health-care provider and even local health department will help you determine how long it’s appropriate for you to keep up these precautions.
This post has been updated.
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