Mike Pence, commander of the U.S. coronavirus task force for some reason.
Photo: ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images
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. has risen dramatically: As of Sunday morning, the United States officially has the highest confirmed case count in the world, with at least 123,804 people across every state, Washington, D.C., and four territories who have tested positive for the disease.
Globally, more than 672,500 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in 171 countries, with at least 31,589 deaths so far. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and President Trump declared a national state of emergency. As of Sunday morning, at least 2,137 American patients with the virus have died.
Here’s everything we know about the spread of the virus in the U.S. so far.
As of March 29, there were at least 123,804 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., and at least 2,137 patients with the virus had died. However, officials have warned that due to delays in testing in many areas, the total number of infected individuals is likely much higher. Over the last week, the rate of diagnosis has accelerated dramatically as a number of states have expanded their testing capacity; New York State, which has been testing aggressively, has been announcing thousands of new cases every day. Yet the New York Times reports that there’s still huge variation in the rates of testing among states.
As of Sunday morning, New York had by far the largest outbreak in the country, with at least 53,363 confirmed cases and 782 deaths. Other states that have been hardest hit by the virus include New Jersey, California, and Washington State. So far, at least 191 patients with the virus have died in Washington State, and 35 of those deaths have been linked to an outbreak of COVID-19 at a long-term care facility, the Life Care Center, in Kirkland, Washington.
The New York Times reports that Louisiana may now be experiencing the fastest growth of new COVID-19 cases in the world. As of Sunday morning, the state had at least 3,315 confirmed cases and 138 deaths. Medical experts suspect the sudden spike could be linked to Mardi Gras celebrations, which concluded on February 25.
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. By March 30, officials in 27 states will have ordered residents to stay at home, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. These “stay-at-home” orders require residents to stay indoors 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.
A number of cities have also announced stay-at-home orders, and Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and Nevada have ordered all nonessential businesses in their states to close. According to CNN, by Monday, more than two third of the U.S. population will be under orders to stay at home.
The widespread lockdowns have had serious economic consequences: Last week, more than 3.2 million Americans filed unemployment claims, a record number. President Trump has questioned whether the economic toll of stay-at-home orders is worth it, and has said he hopes to see the U.S. economy reopened by Easter. However, public-health officials have warned that loosening restrictions could lead to many more deaths. Dr. Anthony Fauci — director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force — has called the April 12 target an “aspirational projection.” On Sunday, he said he did not expect social distancing requirements to lift anytime soon, and would depend on a specific locality’s testing capabilities: “It’s going to be a matter of weeks. It’s not going to be tomorrow and it’s certainly not going to be next week.”
As of Friday, schools in 46 states were closed entirely. 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 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.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has warned that the New York hospital system may soon be overwhelmed by the number of coronavirus cases, and has criticized the federal government for not taking sufficient action to provide needed medical equipment and supplies. The Times reports that, as of Thursday morning, nearly 1,300 COVID-19 patients in New York were in intensive care units, most of them on ventilators. De Blasio has said that New York City will need 15,000 ventilators to fight the crisis. Although President Trump said on Thursday that he thought the need for ventilators may have been exaggerated, on Friday, he invoked the Defense Production Act to order General Motors to ramp up their manufacture.
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.”
Earlier this month, 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. The Times reports that the U.S. is currently performing 65,000 tests a day — a huge rise from even a week ago. However, public-health experts say about 150,000 tests a day are needed to identify infected patients and slow the spread of the virus. On Friday, however, the FDA approved a five-minute coronavirus test that should ship this coming week, allegedly delivering 50,000 tests daily by April 1.
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. As of March 13, American citizens and permanent residents who are returning to the U.S. from those areas are required to fly through one of 13 airports, listed here, though Pompeo has said that U.S. citizens traveling abroad “should arrange to return immediately,” unless they plan to remain out of the country for an extended time.
The State Department has also issued a Level 4 “do not travel” advisory, the most serious advisory at its disposal, asking United States citizens to avoid any global travel. It has also advised Americans, especially those who are older or have existing medical conditions, to avoid cruises at this time. On Saturday, 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.
Congress has approved a $2 trillion stimulus plan, the largest in modern American history. The bill, which is awaiting President Trump’s signature, would 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 would also substantially expand unemployment benefits, including extending eligibility to freelance and gig workers, and provide aid to businesses and companies in distress. Last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin extended the tax-filing deadline to July 15.
Last week, President Trump 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 recently reached a deal 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.
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 new 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.) Because the CDC anticipates a sharp uptick in domestic transmission, it is urging people to prepare for the worst: Stock up on supplies — medicine, non-perishable foods, toilet paper, etc. — and fastidiously wash your hands. (Here’s our guide to protecting yourself.)
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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Everything to Know About the Coronavirus in the U.S.
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