COVID-19: The World at War with an Invisible Enemy

News

COVID-19 is a global pandemic that first emerged as a “mysterious illness” from Wuhan, China in December of 2019.  The number of confirmed cases and deaths for this infectious disease is skyrocketing at an anomalous rate. Over a billion people worldwide are confined to their homes, self-quarantining indefinitely as doctors, politicians, and scientists are working around the clock for answers.  

The KO community has undoubtedly been rocked to its core by the impacts of the virus and has committed to online virtual learning for the foreseeable future.  Members of the 2020 class are devastated, and the likelihood of them finishing out their last year of high school together in person is slim. Senior Amelia Levine expressed her sadness and disappointment. “My sister is graduating college, and I am graduating high school this year, so neither of us are going to be able to celebrate our graduations and the effort we have put into school for many years,” she said.

Some members of Wyvern Nation have relatives that are doctors and nurses who are desperately needed at their respective hospitals for long hours to oversee COVID-19 patients.  These students are frightened for their parent’s safety. “I’m scared for my extended family working in emergency rooms,” said sophomore Amrita Nataranjan. In addition, many KO health care professionals have been obliged to make the tough decision to live away from home so they do not risk infecting family members.  

Students are also fearful of the lives of older loved ones and extended family, especially those who reside abroad.  “I have family members from all over the world,” sophomore Lucia Volin said, concerned and apprehensive about her family. “My grandparents live in a city in Italy where there [are many cases of] COVID-19.  Thus, my family is constantly worried for them.”  

There are a multitude of ripple effects from this pandemic, including severe financial implications for businesses and families.  Employers have had to furlough workers or, worse, close their business operations entirely. Many KO families are feeling the burden of this monetary stress as pressure mounts not knowing when, or if, they will recover financially.   

In these unprecedented times, it is crucial to stay home, safe, and healthy to abate the spread of the coronavirus.  In order for everyone to do their part, we have to be thoroughly educated on what COVID-19 is and its impact on the majority of the world’s shutdown.       

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses come from a large family of viruses that affect both animals and humans.  COVID-19 is a novel virus that got its name from the crown-like spikes that surround the pathogen. The virus resembles other respiratory infections like the flu, but because humans have never been exposed to it before, we do not have the antibodies to fight off this deadly illness.

As of April 6, reported by worldometer, there are nearly 1 million people actively infected with the coronavirus.  Over 930,000 of those patients are either in “mild condition” or completely asymptomatic, accounting for roughly 95% of the confirmed cases globally.  However, almost 50,000 are in critical condition, experiencing severe symptoms. The first case of COVID-19 reported in the United States was on Jan. 21 in Seattle.  

The most common indicators of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness.  People with these mild symptoms who test positive for the virus tend to recover fully in about a two-week span, which is the rough time frame of the mandatory self-quarantine protocol.  Other, more unlikely symptoms include muscle aches, nasal congestion, runny nose, and sore throat. About 80% of people with this disease recover back to full strength without seeking special medical treatment.

Severe symptoms of the coronavirus can be lethal, and affect around one out of every six people who test positive.  Elderly people over the age of 60 or patients with underlying medical complications or autoimmune diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart problems are most prone to be infected by the disease and experience acute illnesses.  In the worst-case scenarios, the illness may turn into pneumonia, with some individuals having to be placed on a ventilator because their lungs fill up with fluid. Patients that do not have these conditions but feel extreme fatigue, difficulty breathing, and high fever should seek medical attention immediately.   

COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease.  This virus “can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with the coronavirus coughs or exhales,”  according to the WHO. “These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.  People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets.” Even people who have mild to no symptoms can transmit or be carriers of the disease, which is why it is vital for people to keep a distance of at least six feet from each other.  

The WHO, led by Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called upon all countries to execute systematic plans to slow down the transmission of the virus.  This is referred to as “flattening the curve,” which is a mitigation strategy designed to slow the rate of infection among people so that the health care system does not get burdened by an influx of patients requiring medical care.  

“This reduces the number of cases that are active at any given time, which in turn gives doctors, hospitals, police, schools and vaccines-manufacturers time to prepare and respond, without becoming overwhelmed,”  Canadian journalist Siobhan Roberts said in an article for the New York Times.

Large scale public health measures, such as social distancing, self-quarantine, work from home orders, and travel restrictions will all contribute to reducing the spread of the virus over a longer period of time.

“This approach is saving lives and buying time for the development of vaccines and treatments,”  Ghebreyesus said.

  Currently, there is no vaccine to protect against the virus, and it could take up to 12-18 months for it to be developed.  Another serious issue is that there is a shortage of tests to determine whether people who are asymptomatic have the virus.  Initially, tests were limited to people experiencing severe symptoms. This allowed doctors and hospitals to immediately isolate patients who tested positive.  However, one of the most alarming aspects of COVID-19 is that people who do not have any symptoms can easily transmit the virus without knowing.

“Certainly there is some degree of asymptomatic transmissibility,” Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci said.  

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Task Force Response Coordinator, concurred that social distancing is crucial and that people should assume that “Everyone you are interacting with is positive.”

Without being able to test entire populations, leading scientists believe that following these safety precautions are the most effective ways to stop the spread.  

The United States has the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 surpassing over 365,000 positive test results.  In late March of 2020, the cases quickly surpassed Italy and China, now the second and sixth most infected countries.  As stated by Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Italy has the most deaths among patients with the coronavirus, totaling over 16,000 and accounting for nearly one-quarter of the world’s total deaths to COVID-19.  To date, the U.S. has reported over 11,000 deaths, the third-highest rate worldwide.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the WHO recommend a multitude of ways to protect ourselves from contracting and being exposed to the coronavirus.  This includes avoiding close contact with people who are sick, avoiding touching your eyes and mouth, washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, staying home if you are sick, and covering a cough or sneeze.  Adhering to these protective measures and abiding by strict social distancing guidelines, the spread of the coronavirus will diminish and the world can return to normal, day to day activities.