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. rose dramatically, and the U.S. now has the highest confirmed case count in the world. As of Thursday, at least 636,917 people across every state, Washington, D.C., and four territories have tested positive for the disease. As of April 16, more than 28,586 patients with the virus have died in the U.S., and fatalities have now been confirmed in all 50 states.
Globally, more than 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in 177 countries, with at least 135,000 deaths so far. In March, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and President Trump declared a national state of emergency.
Here’s everything we know about the spread of the virus in the U.S. so far.
As of April 16, there are at least 636,917 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., and at least 28,586 patients with the virus have died. The New York Times reports that there’s still wide 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 213,779 confirmed cases and 11,586 deaths as of Thursday morning. New York reported more than 3,700 new fatalities on Tuesday, a sharp spike in the death toll, as officials said they were now including people who are presumed to have died from the virus, but had not tested positive. New Jersey is also among the states that have been hardest hit by the virus, along with Massachusetts and Michigan. Though the vast majority of confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 have been in cities and suburbs, the New York Times reported last week that coronavirus has officially reached more than two-thirds of the country’s rural counties, where cases are growing fast.
While death tolls continue to rise sharply, the number of hospitalizations appears to be plateauing in places like New York City, suggesting that social distancing may be working. In late March, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, warned that even with aggressive measures to slow the spread of the virus, between 100,000 and 200,000 people in the U.S. would die; in early April, he said the total toll currently “looks more like 60,000.” However, he cautioned against “claiming victory” prematurely, and stressed the importance of continuing to adhere to social-distancing mandates.
As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has continued to rise, many 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. Fauci has advocated 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 had serious economic consequences: The Labor Department reports that about 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past four weeks. Though President Trump has questioned whether the economic toll of stay-at-home orders is 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 10 for at least another month, and possibly until June.
As of the beginning of April, 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 for the remainder of the year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on April 11, though Governor Andrew Cuomo subsequently contradicted this, saying nothing was set in stone.
Last week, New York recorded its highest single-day death toll yet, with more than 700 additional deaths announced on eight of the last nine days. Still, Cuomo has 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 April 6 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 had criticized the federal government for not taking sufficient action to provide needed medical equipment and supplies, though de Blasio thanked the Trump administration for sending the city 600,000 N95 masks.
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. Though testing capacity has improved — the U.S. is currently testing about 145,000 people a day — there are still widespread shortages. In many areas, state health officials and medical providers say they are unable to test as many people as they would like to, and tests remain available only to those who meet specific criteria. Public-health officials say that far more testing — for both the virus and antibodies — will be needed in order to safely reopen the economy, and both Cuomo and de Blasio called for federal assistance to ramp up testing this week.
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. 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. At the end of March, 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 first round of deposits reportedly went out on April 11. 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.
As the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has increased dramatically over the last month, President Trump has been criticized for the federal government’s slow and ineffective response. In an apparent attempt to shift the blame, on Tuesday, Trump accused the World Health Organization of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread of the virus, and said that the U.S. would halt funding to the organization while it reviewed its actions. The decision to deprive the world’s leading health organization of funding amid a global pandemic was met with sharp criticism from other world leaders.
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 April 10, 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. On Wednesday, Cuomo signed an executive order requiring New York residents to wear face coverings in public settings where they are not able to stay six feet away from other people, including buses, subways, sidewalks, and grocery stores. Los Angeles has also ordered residents to wear masks when visiting essential businesses. 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 April 5, 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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Everything to Know About the Coronavirus in the U.S.
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