Please note: Geoversiv is not a public health institution and should not be treated as the definitive authority on pandemic-related information. This page is provided as a public service, to connect readers to basic background information and to useful expert guidance and the latest reporting.
The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center images are being updated from time to time, but may not be current when you read this. For update numbers, go to Coronavirus.jhu.edu
COVID-19 is an infectious disease resulting from the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome in the worst affected patients. It has been officially declared a pandemic, by the World Health Organization—meaning it can affect any human being anywhere in the world. As of this writing, there is no proven cure, and no working vaccine has yet been developed and proven.
Major public health guidance and related restrictions on public gatherings, including places of work, are oriented toward “flattening the curve”.
Flattening the curve means saving lives.
The describes the visual effect on the epidemiological curve. In a pandemic with no known vaccine or treatment, the curve rapidly escalates and then declines, after most of the population has been infected. With a global death rate of 3.4%, there is no population that can tolerate an unmitigated rate of infection.
Flattening the curve also means extending it over time. This is also part of the work of saving lives. The longer the epidemiological curve is extended over time, the more people we can vaccinate or treat, as the virus spreads.
The featured image at the top of this article comes from the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus-tracking website, which is tracking all confirmed reports of new COVID-19 infections, worldwide. Please check back for the latest numbers regularly, at: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu
The World Health Organization’s COVID-19 dashboard is at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is releasing COVID-19 information and guidance at https://Coronavirus.gov
Local authorities, local news sources, and state-level public health updates are increasingly important, as governors, provincial leaders, and mayors take the lead in social distancing efforts.
Kaiser Health News has also released an analysis of which counties in the United States have (blue) hospitals with ICU beds, (yellow) hospitals without ICU beds, or (grey) no hospitals.
The Guardian is tracking all recent updates through a daily live-blog on its front page: https://www.theguardian.com
The Financial Times is making COVID-19 content available for non-subscribers: https://www.ft.com/content/a26fbf7e-48f8-11ea-aeb3-955839e06441
“The Hammer and the Dance”—posted on Medium—explores in great detail what is at stake in the effort to slow the spread and flatten the curve. Read at: https://link.medium.com/j7FMbhljc5
The Atlantic has been providing detailed, deeply-researched coverage, and the article “How the Pandemic Will End” provides a vivid look at the next months, the endgame, and the aftermath: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/how-will-coronavirus-end/608719/
What about economic disruption?
The requirement that public gatherings and commerce shut down, temporarily, to protect public health by flattening the curve and slowing the spread of the pandemic, will negatively impact the economy—which is to say: conventional ways of measuring general economic prosperity. This does not mean national economies need to collapse or that millions of people need to lose their opportunity for employment or income.
Two public voices in the United States—one a Trump-supporting Republican senator, the other a former Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, under Obama—have framed the problem clearly and non-ideologically:
- “Try running an economy with major hospitals overflowing, doctors and nurses forced to stop treating some because they can’t help all, and every moment of gut-wrenching medical chaos being played out in our living rooms, on TV, on social media, and shown all around the world. There is no functioning economy unless we control the virus.” – Sen. Lindsey Graham, on Twitter
- “The best thing for the economy is to slow the spread of the virus.” – Austan Goolsbee, speaking to Chris Cuomo, on CNN
One critical question is whether new modes of economic coordination and/or business and individual assistance can be created that are designed for this particular type of challenge.
- Conventional small business loans, insurance policies, and unemployment benefits, are not ideal for the coordinated temporary suspension of economic activity to slow the spread of a pandemic.
- The United States Congress has put together a $2.2 trillion economic relief bill, intended to assist households and small businesses, as well as banking and industry, in effectively suspending economic activity—so people don’t lose their jobs, businesses, or homes—while stay-at-home orders are in place.
- It is also vitally important to slowing the spread that workers who supply food be able to safely stay home.
- It will be necessary to pass additional measures for medium- and long-term national investment in building back better—to achieve a better designed, more sustainable and resilient model of general economic prosperity.
The International Monetary Fund is tracking the economic relief and rescue measures adopted around the world. At this writing, 186 nations had begun work on immediate economic relief measures. The IMF tracking page is online at: https://www.imf.org/en/Topics/imf-and-covid19/Policy-Responses-to-COVID-19
We need to surge medical supplies and capacity.
There is a great need to surge medical supplies, given that no local healthcare system is designed in normal times to cope with a rapidly spreading pandemic leading to a massive influx of patients needing acute, ongoing respiratory assistance. That phenomenon has been described as “a wave crashing” on the system, as the number of cases begins to exceed, and then far exceed, existing capacity.
- The American Hospital Association is supporting a 100 Million Masks Challenge: https://www.aha.org/initiativescampaigns/2020-03-26-100-million-mask-challenge-manufacturers
- The effort is intended not only to rapidly increase the supply of protective masks, but of all forms of the urgently needed PPE (personal protective equipment) that ensures healthcare workers can continue to serve on the frontlines, without getting sick. It is also intended to support a surge in manufacture and distribution of ventilators and other urgently needed medical supplies.
- For more information about medical surge: https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/ep/surge/index.html
There are many useful and necessary efforts ongoing to provide the best possible information to people around the world, to reduce the exponential spread, avoid overwhelming health systems, and save lives. Stay curious, seek knowledge, share evidence, and do your part.
Above all: Stay home; save lives.