In February, while most of the novel coronavirus cases were in China, the spike in cases in surrounding countries and Europe fueled fears of a global pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on February 24 warned that the United States should brace for a coronavirus outbreak. President Trump, on Friday March 13, declared a national state of emergency.
During March and April, confirmed cases of the coronavirus increased dramatically in the U.S.
More than 2 million people in the U.S. have tested positive for the coronavirus. As of June 17, in the U.S. approximately 117,000 people who have tested positive for the disease have died. Around the world, there are approximately 8 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Globally, approximately 445,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have died.
Recently the number of cases and deaths nationwide has declined. However, across the country thousands of confirmed cases are reported each day and hundreds of deaths.
As of June 17, 21 states have seen increases in new cases over the last two weeks. Iowa is among 12 states where new cases have largely remained the same over the past two weeks.
Many states are currently experiencing dramatic increases in new cases. 9 states—Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, and Texas—have experienced record numbers of new cases in the past seven days.
On June 15, during a private call with governors, Vice-President Mike Pence described the recent outbreaks as “intermittent spikes.” He told the governors the rising cases were due to expanded testing. Public health experts—including the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci—criticized the Vice-President for downplaying recent outbreaks.
Nationwide, nursing homes, food-processing facilities, and prisons have been among the hardest hit. Of the number of deaths from the coronavirus, over 40 percent have been residents of care facilities and nursing homes.
Public health experts attribute the recent decline in confirmed cases of the virus to the lockdowns during March and April.
42 states imposed stay-at-home orders except for essential activities.
Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Arkansas were among states that did not issue stay-at-home orders. A study from the JAMA Network Open that compared border regions between Iowa and Illinois (where residents were under stay-at-home orders) suggest the absence of a stay-at-home order in Iowa may have increased cases of the COVID-19 in Iowa.
The widespread lockdowns have devastated the economy, forcing over 40 million people into unemployment. On May 21, the chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome H. Powell, warned that the U.S. was experiencing an economic “downturn without modern precedent.”
Nationwide, stay-at-home orders have been lifted in most states and retail stores and other “nonessential” businesses have begun reopening. Despite the gradual nationwide reopening, public health officials warn of a second wave of cases in late summer or early autumn. On May 12, while testifying before the Senate, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that without widespread testing, re-opening too soon could “trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control.”
Pubic health officials also fear that the recent nationwide racial justice protests—in which social distancing protocols are difficult to maintain—will lead to spikes in COVID-19 cases.
In the majority of confirmed cases, the coronavirus disease isn’t fatal. However, the elderly, those with pre-existing conditions, and those with compromised immune systems appear to be the most susceptible to dying from the disease. In the U.S., approximately 80 percent of the deaths from COVID-19 have been among individuals age 65 and older.
In New York City, data suggests that in many neighborhoods Black and Latino residents are disproportionately dying at twice the rate of white residents.
In April, the CDC recommended that individuals wear masks when out in public. In New York and Los Angeles, governors have ordered residents to wear masks in public settings. Public health officials encourage wearing masks, in part, because of the prevalence of asymptomatic cases who may not experience any symptoms and unknowingly spread the virus. Pubic health experts estimate between 25 and 50 percent of infected individuals may be asymptomatic.
The coronavirus is highly contagious and there is currently no vaccine to prevent the spread of the disease. According to the CDC, the virus appears to spread mainly through person-to-person transmission, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). The virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
The CDC recommends everyone should 1) wash their hands thoroughly and often, 2) avoid close contact with people who are sick, 3) stay at least 6 feet from other people when outside your home, 4) wear a face mask when in public, 5) cover your coughs and sneezes, 6) clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, and 7) monitor your health, being alert to symptoms like fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
If you are sick, in order to limit transmission, the CDC recommends you 1) self-isolate at home, 2) avoid exposure to other individuals, 3) wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, 4) clean highly-trafficked household objects and surfaces, and 5) wear a mask when you interact with other people.