updated coronavirus chart

In Brief:

      • Many health experts agree that the key to defeating COVID-19 is to flatten the curve.
      • China has already flattened their curve by initiating many quarantine and social-distancing measures to reduce the number of infected.
      • The U.S. has already begun to follow suit by restricting large crowds, canceling sporting events, music festivals, and warning against crowds of over ten people.
      • There have been many outbreaks in only the last 100 years. Each outbreak has been defeated and with far more primitive medical equipment.

Panic is defined as sudden and uncontrollable fear and anxiety. Should the global community handle COVID-19 with the utmost importance and seriousness? Absolutely. But, that doesn’t mean it’s time to panic. Several unknowns continue to bring the world to its knees. Namely, there is debate over how much more deadly COVID-19 is than the flu and if only the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions should fear. Yet, there is one thing the global community knows for sure: it’s time to flatten the curve.

COVID-19: Just the Facts

updated coronavirus chart
Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) as of March 31, 2020

The interactive chart above provides a detailed synopsis of the global fight against COVID-19. Click here for daily updates.

Total Confirmed of 803,650 reflects the number of people who have been infected.

Total Recovered of 172,772 reflects the number of people who have completely recovered.

Total Deaths of 39,033 reflects the number of people who have died from COVID-19. However the rate of death has declined as treatments have been implemented.

A key component of the interactive chart is located in the lower-right corner.

You can see the effect that COVID-19 is having on the U.S. with this informative map:

NBC News US Coronavirus Deaths as of March 31, 2020

This chart is described below:

Coronavirus bell curve chart
A flattening of the bell curve; provided by Johns Hopkins as of March 31, 2020
  1. Mainland China is orange – note that this curve has flattened which means that the spread of the virus has declined significantly.
  1. All Locations other than Mainland China are consolidated within the yellow line – note that the curve inclines sharply, it is not flat. This means the virus continues to rapidly spread outside of Mainland China.
  1. Total Patients who have recovered are reflected within the green line – note that this curve also inclines sharply. The reason for this sharp incline is because so many victims from Mainland China have already recovered.

There is a growing sentiment amongst the global community that the U.S is panicking because the federal government has implemented many restrictions in a very short manner. The fact though is that the reason why the U.S. is implementing sharp restrictions so quickly is to head off the growth and to flatten its own bell curve.

What Does it Mean to Flatten the Curve?

When experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, discuss the need to “flatten the curve”, they are referring to health strategies that would decrease the number of infected people.

By employing “social-distancing” a buzz-word term for avoiding physical contact with strangers, crowded areas, and practicing proper-sanitation at all times, the highest number of those infected (the peak), will be much lower.

While there is legitimate cause for concern amongst the most vulnerable in our population, when countries employ quarantine measures, the efficacy of COVID-19 dramatically plummets. To assist the social distance “Fix”, on March 16th, the government suggested that people should avoid crowds of over 10 people for 15 days.

The world must now follow the successful Chinese strategy to stop the spread of COVID-19. The government of China initiated several quarantine policies in order to save the lives of millions.

flattening of curve for COVID-19
A flattening of the curve for COVID-19 if quarantine measures are enacted

China’s United Fight Against COVID-19 And Why The U.S. Is Now Following Suit:

COVID-19 began to spread in the Hubei province city of Wuhan, China last December. The global community stood by as thousands began to fall ill to the mysterious strain. As China’s infected population within Wuhan skyrocketed, the government knew it needed to act.

In late January as the number of infected reached over 10,000, China began to isolate Wuhan. Trains did not stop at stations in Wuhan and fever clinics were quickly established throughout the nation that civilians could visit if they felt a fever coming on. The government also announced that coronavirus testing kits would be free and accessible.

Policy officials directed thousands of workers to build 1,300-bed hospitals in as little as 10-15 days and to repurpose existing community centers to serve as hospitals. Elective surgeries were all postponed to save room for the infected. In an extreme but effective use of social-distancing policies, China sealed off the ravaged city of Wuhan and most of Hubei Province, an area amounting to roughly 60 million people.

The result of China’s widespread shutdown is the flattening of its national curve, a result that U.S. officials are now striving for. For the last few weeks, the number of new infected cases in China has rapidly diminished. At its peak on February 13th, China reported over 15,000 cases in one day. Just one week ago, the asian nation reported only 19 new cases. The number of global cases outside of China is now greater than in China.

Following in the path that China has laid out, U.S. federal and state government officials have already announced mandatory shutdowns of sporting events, music festivals, gyms, restaurants, and many more non-essential locales.

Coronavirus woman in wuhan walking

Why is a Quarantine So Effective at Defeating COVID-19?

The stark reality is that COVID-19 is among the most easily transmittable viruses that doctors have ever seen. In a matter of weeks, this new coronavirus has spread to every continent but Antarctica. While there is much debate as to how the virus first originated, health experts know that, like other coronaviruses, COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets. When someone coughs, sneezes, or even breathes, they can easily transmit the virus.

According to the CDC, when someone becomes infected, they may not show symptoms from anywhere between 2-14 days. Known as the incubation period, over 90 percent of those infected begin to show signs around day 5. By day 14, 99 percent of those infected will have already exhibited some symptoms of COVID-19 including a fever, aches, chills, and a dry cough.

If a nationwide 2 to 4 week quarantine is enacted as in the case of China, the belief from many experts is that the bell curve of Americans infected will dramatically flatten. Simply put, if Americans stay home for longer than two weeks and still do not exhibit symptoms, they likely do not have COVID-19.

Coronavirus patient getting examined

Medical Care Suggestions By NYU Langone Medical Center:

NYU Langone Medical Center, one of the leading hospital networks in the country, has the following suggestions in order to maximize your chances of avoiding COVID-19 and what to do if you feel you may be infected.

NYU Langone tips for when to see a medical expert

A History of Global Pandemics in the Last Century

COVID-19 is only the most recent case of an outbreak. In just the last century, there have been several outbreaks and even some pandemics, some much worse than COVID-19. The global community, led by top medical experts, has recovered from each outbreak and with far more primitive medical resources than we now possess.

Smallpox 1900-1904:

Smallpox is a poxvirus that is transmitted from person to person resulting in flu-like symptoms and unmistakable white pustules on the body.  Before its eradication in 1980, there were many outbreaks of smallpox around the world. The virus was first reported in 460 B.C. as the reason for the Plague of Athens. The virus also largely contributed to the complete annihilation of the Native American population who had no immunity to the it  when the first European explorers reached their shores.

The first, widespread outbreak of smallpox in the U.S. occurred in New York City during the spring of 1900. At the dawn of the 20th century, few effective treatments existed to prevent infectious diseases. Although the first vaccine against smallpox was developed in 1796, more than a century later, its use was not widespread enough to fully control the disease.

  • Key symptoms: fever, fatigue, aches, widespread rash, white pustules
  • First case: early 1900
  • Nationwide infected population: 21,064
  • Nationwide deaths: 894
  • Death Rate: 4 percent
  • Transmission: direct contact with bodily fluids or contaminated objects
  • Most at-risk groups: anyone
  • Treatments available: eradicated in 1980, vaccine available but not needed at this time
  • Vaccines available: not needed
  • End of pandemic: 1904, eradicated in 1980

smallpox outbreak

Spanish Flu 1918:

The outbreak of Spanish Flu could not come at a more inopportune time. As you are likely well aware, in 1918, the world was embroiled in the first war of the modern age, WWI. As such, millions of soldiers across several continents were crammed into unsanitary bunkers, lacking vital nutrients, drinking dirty water, and watching their own bodies decay from festering battle wounds.

Additionally, millions of civilians across Europe became displaced by the widespread war, carrying this new and untreatable flu wherever they went. When the virus was first detected in March 1918, it was already too late. It is important to remember that unlike now, vaccines, antibiotics, and antivirals did not exist. Medical experts at this time only had a limited knowledge of how viruses operated.

  • Key symptoms: fever, nausea, aches, diarrhea
  • First case: March 1918
  • Global infected population: 500 million
  • Global deaths: over 50 million
  • Death Rate: 2 percent
  • Transmission: respiratory droplets
  • Most at-risk groups: otherwise healthy adults between 20-40
  • Treatments available: none; antibiotics or antivirals did not yet exist
  • Vaccines available: none
  • End of pandemic: summer 1918; mostly due to deaths and higher immunity levels

spanish flu outbreak

Polio 1952:

It is difficult to imagine in the year 2020, but only 60 years ago, polio was a very real and scary virus that affected thousands of Americans. Polio is a virus that attacks the spinal cord causing paralysis, respiratory failure, and even death if left unchecked. Infants and children are the most at-risk for polio (FDR contracted the virus as a child and often needed to use a wheelchair during his presidency).

While there is an easily accessible vaccine for polio, there are still a reported 1,000 cases each year in the U.S. The worst outbreak of polio in American history occurred in 1952 when 7,628 cases were reported. 3,145 people, mostly children, died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis. The widespread outbreak of polio led millions of parents to demand a vaccine. American researcher Jonas Salk announced in 1953 that he had created the first polio vaccination.

  • Key symptoms: fever, nausea, back pain, joint stiffness
  • First case: 1894
  • Nationwide infected population: 21,269
  • Nationwide deaths: 3,145
  • Death Rate: 15 percent
  • Transmission: contact with an infected person, contaminated water, or contaminated food
  • Most at-risk groups: children
  • Treatments available: easily accessible vaccine
  • Vaccines available: easily accessible vaccine
  • End of pandemic: first vaccine synthesized in 1953, fewer than 200 cases reported each year in U.S. in the last 40 years

roosevelt with polio

HIV/AIDS 1981-Present Day:

It is widely believed by the scientific community that AIDS developed near the capital city of Kinshasa in modern day Democratic Republic of the Congo around 1920 when the virus jumped species from chimpanzees to humans. Although there were documented cases of AIDS before the 1980’s, the virus sprung to the global spotlight in 1981.

Around this time, hundreds of previously healthy, homosexual men began to develop severe infections due to a drastic decrease in their bodies’ immune efficiency. Researchers surmised an exchange of bodily fluids through sexual contact, blood transfusions, and drug use transmitted the AIDS virus.

In 1986, the CDC announced that HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) leads to the development of AIDS. By March of 1987, the FDA had approved the first drug, Zidovudine, to treat HIV before it became AIDS. According to the World Health Organization, 74.9 million people have contracted AIDS of which 37.9 million have died. Most cases are found in the most impoverished nations, especially in Africa.

  • Key symptoms: rapid weight loss, fever, fatigue, sores, swollen lymph glands
  • First case: 1920
  • Global infected population: 74.9 million
  • Global deaths: 37.9 million
  • Death Rate: 51 percent
  • Transmission: bodily fluids
  • Most at-risk groups: anyone
  • Treatments available: antiretroviral drugs 
  • Vaccines available: none
  • End of pandemic: no cure, approximately 40,000 new cases of HIV occur each year in the U.S.

aids in Mozambique

SARS 2003:

SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) is similar to COVID-19. Another example of a coronavirus, SARS first came to light in China in late 2002. Although the death rate of SARS is much higher, the virus is much harder to transmit. Symptoms of SARS are much easier to detect as they are more severe. As such, it is much easier to spot those who have been infected with the virus, unlike COVID-19.

SARS killed 774 people in 2003, none of whom resided in the U.S. Total global cases spanned across 29 countries. Similar to COVID-19, the most at-risk population were the elderly, especially those with pre-existing respiratory conditions. The medical community was able to synthesize a vaccine at the end of 2003 around the time the pandemic ended.

  • Key symptoms: fever, respiratory symptoms, cough, malaise
  • First detection: November 2002 in Guangdong province of China
  • Global cases: 8,098 cases
  •  across 29 countries; 8 U.S. cases
  • Global deaths: 774; 15 percent mortality rate; no U.S. deaths
  • Transmission: spread through respiratory droplets and contaminated surfaces
  • Most affected groups: patients 60 and older had a 55 percent higher death rate
  • Treatment available: no treatment or cure, but antiviral medications and steroids worked for some people
  • Vaccine available: a vaccine was ready around the time the pandemic was already ending
  • End of pandemic: July 2003

sars virus under microscope

H1N1 (Swine Flu) 2009:

When Swine Flu began to spread in early 2009, the global community panicked as there was no known vaccine for the novel strain. In just a few short months, the virus infected over 60 million Americans, killing over 12,000. Swine Flu often does not receive much publicity as the outbreak occurred during the worst economic downturn in the U.S. since the Great Depression.

Although humans did not have an immunity to the viral strain, antivirals facilitated recovery and, by the end of 2009, a vaccine which — combined with higher levels of immunity — now provides protection in future flu seasons. Although Swine Flu is much less deadly than many previous outbreaks, the advanced medical instruments that doctors and researchers have at their disposal mean viral outbreaks can be defeated with greater ease.

  • Key symptoms: fever, chills, cough, body aches
  • First detection: January 2009 in Mexico; April 2009 in the U.S.
  • Global infected population: about 24 percent of global population
  • Global deaths: over 284,000
  • Global Death Rate: .02 percent
  • Most affected groups: children
  • Treatment available: antiretroviral medications (oseltamivir and zanamivir); most people recovered without complications
  • Vaccine available: H1N1 vaccine research started April 2009 and a vaccine became available December 2009
  • End of pandemic: August 2010

president receives vaccination

Ebola 2014-2016:

Ebola is a rare and deadly virus that originated in Sub-Saharan African near the Ebola River in modern day Democratic Republic of the Congo. The virus is transmitted through bodily fluids. After Ebola enters the body, it quickly destroys cells and weakens the immune system. The virus also causes heavy bleeding in every organ of the body resulting in death. Although the virus is extremely deadly, unless someone comes into contact with the infected person’s bodily fluids, they will not contract it.

Ebola began to quickly spread through West Africa in 2014. In total, Ebola infected 10 countries throughout West Africa. Due to its abject poverty, little to no sanitation, and widespread civil war, the region was quick to declare an epidemic. The virus infected an estimated 28,652 West Africans and killed 11,325. Due in large part to help from the global medical community and quarantine measures, Ebola did not spread throughout the world as some experts feared.

  • Key symptoms: fever, aches and pains, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting
  • First detection: first patient identified December 2013 in Guinea; first outbreak March 2014
  • Global infected population: 28,652 cases
  • Global deaths: 11,325 deaths
  • Transmission: spread through bodily fluids (blood, sweat, feces) and close contact; most contagious toward end of disease
  • Most affected groups: children
  • Treatment available: none; supportive care was provided, including IV fluids and oral rehydration
  • Vaccines available: none
  • End of Outbreak: March 2016

Ebola virus in isolation

Take COVID-19 Seriously, But Do Not Panic

There is no disputing Americans will need to alter their way of life for the next few weeks. This means limiting unnecessary trips out of the house, abstaining from physical contact like hugging and handshakes, and working remotely for an extended period of time.

We can all take comfort in knowing that the American medical system is at the forefront of research and treatment. Never before in history has medical knowledge been so advanced. It’s time to flatten curve – and by altering our lives for a few weeks, we will likely do just that.

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