This is a collection of information about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and everything you need to know, from the specific science behind the virus, to international events and local updates in Austin, Texas. This illness only has a 2-4% mortality rate but is extremely new and never before seen, making it a novel part of history unfolding right now.
As of MARCH 26 2020
There are now 74,982 positive cases of Covid-19 in the United States.
Currently, New York has the most cases reaching 35,356 total positive cases. Updated and Accurate information of the United States status with Covid-19 can be found here
1,281 positive cases in Texas.
119 positive cases in Travis county.
The city of Austin has issued a Public Health order known as a Stay at Home order to residents, started March 24 lasting until April 13th. This order closes all non-essential businesses but allows essential businesses like grocery stores, hospitals and doctors offices, federal organizations like the post office to stay open. It also requires individuals to stay home unless for essential work and activities which allows exercising but prohibits gatherings of anyone outside the household. This is to flatten the curve of Covid-19 and ensure that the hospitals don’t get overwhelmed.
AISD schools are moving to online learning, which won’t start until April 3rd. AISD has created a loose schedule of review for students based on grade level, which can be found here.
Experimental drugs are being rushed through stages and clinical trials to try to treat the coronavirus patients. Some drugs include Gilead’s remdesivir, which is in phase 3 and being studied in 5 clinical trials around the world, the drugs main purpose is to reduce fever and speed up patient’s recovery time. More information on drugs in development can be found here.
Other treatments brought up include hydroxychloroquine, a common anti-malaria drug, and the antibiotic azithromycin. President Trump tweeted about the possible benefit of these two drugs together. However, no clinical evidence has been found between these drugs and treating Covid-19. The possible connection was seen in a study in France where patients had little to no viruses after using the combination of drugs. However, in a controlled experiment in China, no difference was recorded in recovery rates. No current data support that these drugs are any more effective than just regular treatment.
Things are changing very quickly during these unprecedented times. The best thing to do right now is to stay informed through news and other outlets. Additionally, remember to stay calm and not panic. We will get through this.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a specific family of viruses that range from the common cold, to MERS-coV, to SAR co-V, and most recently, a never before seen COVID-19, which stands for “Coronavirus disease 2019.” The name refers to the Coronavirus family and the year it was discovered.
COVID-19 is zoonotic, meaning that it spreads from animals to humans, and it is believed that this particular virus was spread from a bat to a human in Wuhuan, China, starting the outbreak. According to a paper published on CellPress, Genomic analyses of 2019-nCoV 177 demonstrate a 96% nucleotide identity with a coronavirus isolated from a bat virus, meaning that it is likely the virus jumped (mutated) to humans. This is a unique virus but shares a family with many familiar diseases and has similar structures to these.
Additionally, the coronaviruses earn their name from their appearance, under a microscope the viruses have pointed structures that make them look like they have a corona, latin for crown.
Its ability to infect humans comes from the ‘Spiked S’ protein on the COVID-19. It binds the virus on the cellular receptors allowing entrance into the body through membrane fusion. ‘S’ resitudes show a strong similarity between SARS, Severe acute respiratory syndrome, and COVID-19, a difference being the structure of a salt bridge within its chemical makeup. The ‘S’ protein can adapt easily, allowing it to attach to a variety of cell types.
The coronavirus is a family of mostly respiratory viruses that have been around for millions of years. COVID-19 is new, just being identified December 2019, but is similar to SARS, MERS and even the common cold. Its main difference is the structure of its ‘S’ proteins.
COVID-19 is able to spread through ‘droplets’. These droplets are saliva or mucus and can spread by being ejected from the mouth or nose by sneezing, laughing, and spitting. The virus cannot spread by being ‘naked’, it needs some form of droplet to protect it. Additionally, it can’t enter the body through the skin but needs an entrance through the mouth, eyes, nose or other openings.
Symptoms of the Virus?
Like it’s respiratory affecting cousins, COVID-19 affects the lungs and respiratory system. Symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
Severe cases include:
- Kidney problems
- Death from respiratory shut down
These symptoms are very common for many respiratory diseases, so it is important to identify if you could’ve come in contact with an infected individual or at risk for developing the disease. Testing is important as well to determine if it is COVID-19.
Foreign Updates and Timeline
COVID-19 first emerged in the Hubei province of China in early December of 2019. Though originally slow to act, once China realized the severity of the issue, they began rolling out intense treatment and quarantine procedures that the World Health Organization commended. This however, was not enough to stop COVID-19 from transmitting to neighboring countries and soon enough globally. Currently there are 93,000 cases internationally, and COVID-19 has spread to every single continent excluding Antarctica.
One of the first major incidents outside of China was the mishandeling of the outbreak on the Diamond Princess: a quarantined cruise ship off the coast of Japan. A large number of people on board became infected and were prevented from leaving the ship for nearly a month. The ship has now been evacuated, but only after hundreds of the passengers contracted the virus and at least 6 people who were on board died.
Saudi Arabia has also faced challenges trying to contain COVID-19. Saudi Arabia is home to many important religious sites for the Islamic religion, and annually receives millions of visitors, which is becoming an issue as the virus spreads throughout the Middle East. Muslims going on their pilgrimage to Mecca are being turned away as these religious centers are becoming hot spots for the virus and possibly bringing coronavirus in and out of Saudi Arabia. But they are not the only country in the Middle East confronted with coronavirus complications.
The official reports concerning the number of cases and deaths in Iran are conflicting with what the public there is claiming. Many citizens have disagreed with the government, saying the actual number of cases is much higher. There is so much distrust between the people of Iran and their government, that when the Iranian Deputy Health Minister, Iraj Harirchi, contracted coronavirus, they accused him of feigning the illness.
As it stands now, other than China, Italy, Iran, and India are the most affected countries. Though daily numbers are fluctuating, overall the global spread is not slowing down, as the number of cases and countries infected continue to increase. It’s important to be aware of the trends abroad because it helps to inform us about the virus as it pertains to the United States.
United States News
COVID- 19 has been spreading fairly quickly in the United States, originating from the set of Americans who were in Wuhan, China, at the time of the outbreak and managed to fly back before quarantine was instituted over the city. The second group of infected Americans to return to the states were the passengers on the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship. After a few weeks, the first death of COVID- 19, came from Washington state- a male in his 50’s who died on February 29, 2020. This man did not travel anywhere that would have given him the disease, so it is likely that he caught it from someone else in King County where he lived.
Since then, there have been 4,226 confirmed cases, 75 deaths, and about 100 recoveries. All 50 states are reporting cases.
The death in California is thought to be related to the Grand Princess cruise ship coming from Hawaii, headed towards San Francisco. This ship currently has 11 passengers and 10 crew members, and is not being allowed to dock until the assessment of each passenger is completed. On a separate trip, from Mexico to San Francisco, there were 2,500 passengers and on Wednesday, March 4, the first passenger from that trip died of COVID-19.
One large part of the United States economy that has taken a hit from the COVID-19, is the stock market. With people selling their stocks, and many large industries taking a huge dip, economists are worrying about a full blown recession- which hasn’t happened the stock market crash of 2008.
Companies are encouraging employees to work from home during this outbreak time, especially those working in the Seattle, Washington area. A huge part of controlling this disease outbreak is something called “social distancing.” Social distancing is the practice of staying away from people and social situations. While it is not as extreme as quarantine, it is a huge undertaking. Many people are avoiding bars, restaurants, movie theaters, malls, and other situations in which a lot of people are in close proximity to one another. In several parts of the country, the cities and states are taking it upon themselves to order the closing of these places, forcing a social distancing for it’s occupants.
While this may seem unnecessary, health officials at the WHO and CDC report that it will help them better contain the disease. This illness will hit hard, but with proper hygiene and social distancing, the US might be able to delay and decrease it’s impact. Italy was particularly affected by this illness, and many people over there are warning Americans to be proactive about this.
On Thursday, March 5, Nancy Pelosi signed an 8.3 billion bill to combat COVID-19. The bill has been rushed to the Senate and then will hopefully make its way to the White House.
Several celebrities have contracted the disease, including: Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson, who are filming in Australia, Idris Elba, Frozen II star Rachel Matthews, Game of Thrones star Kristofer Hivju, and French actress and model Olga Kurylenko.
These celebrities and more, along with Americans all across the country are calling for people to take this time serious and to practice social distancing, as well as praising doctors and nurses for being on the front lines.
Austin Specific Events
The first confirmed case of COVID- 19 in Texas came from Fort Bend County. Since then, more cases have risen and Governor Greg Abbott has issued a state of emergency, as well as has called in the National Guard.
A petition to cancel SXSW reached over 50,000 signatures. Several big name companies have pulled out of the festival, and the city worked with the Travis County health officials to decide if the festival, which brings in huge amounts of money, should be cancelled. As of March 6th, South by Southwest has been cancelled by the city of Austin for concern for public safety.
AISD cancelled school until April 3rd, a time in which they hope to assist teachers in transferring to online classes for the foreseeable future. AISD is providing breakfast and lunch for all students who need it, for the two extra weeks in which classes are cancelled. There are 14 locations where this curbside pick up is possible.
The City of Austin has banned gatherings of 10 people or more until May 1.
While all of this seems scary and nerve wracking, it is important to stay alert, not anxious. These decisions are all apart of something called “flattening the curve.” This means that if no measures were put into place, a lot of people would get very sick, very quickly, and the US health care system would be unable to handle that kind of pressure. This way, the affects get slowed down and lessened, allowing for health care officials to better prepare themselves. This move also protects those most vulnerable: the elderly, the newborn, and the sick. So remember: stay prepared, stay healthy, and stay inside as much as possible.