by : Lieba Nesis
COVID-19, an acronym for Coronavirus Disease 2019, has infected more than 126,000 with over 4,600 deaths to date, and caused irreparable damage to the global economy. In the past day, the S&P 500 has tumbled more than 9.5 percent despite the Fed offering at least $1.5 trillion to banks in short-term loans. Talks are ongoing for a sweeping aid package to help affected workers and patients. Until then society is forced to grapple with the unknown as each day brings a new crisis. The novel disease is still enigmatic with its origins being traced to a live animal market in the Wuhan Region of Central China where dozens of workers became sickened with pneumonia. Thursday, a spokesman for the Chinese government promoted the conspiracy theory that the US military brought it to China. In fact, China first reported a case of pneumonia with unknown etiology on December 30, 2019 with some experts claiming the virus had been present since the first half of November. If China had conducted interventions in its country such as quarantining, and restricting travel, just three weeks earlier than it did, its cases could have been reduced by 95 percent, according to Dr. Shengjie Lai, of the University of Southampton.
Coronavirus whistleblower and Central Hospital of Wuhan doctor, Li Wenliang, died on February 7th along with three other doctors, weeks later, due to the government’s false claim that the disease was controllable and unable to spread from human-to-human. The Wuhan Hospital has seen over 230 of its more than 4,000 medical staff diagnosed with the disease-the highest amount of any healthcare facility.The virus itself is officially named SARS-CoV-2 since it most closely resembles Severe Acute Respiratory syndrome and possesses a genome similar to that in horseshoe bats. How it transferred from bats to other animals who infected humans is unknown; however, it quickly began spreading human-to-human beginning in December 2019. It is primarily spread by respiratory droplets when people sneeze, talk cough or blow their nose within 6 feet-a longer distance than previously thought. Surfaces touched by those infected can hold the virus for hours or days. Consequently, avoiding close contact with others and washing your hands for 20 seconds are critical tools in combating the disease.
On Wednesday March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic: an epidemic that occurs with almost simultaneous transmission worldwide. While both obesity and diabetes are termed “pandemics” it was clear this one would have more serious consequences. The disease has an incubation period of 2-14 days with most symptoms occurring by the 5th day. Signs include fever, dry cough, aches and pains and in more serious cases pneumonia. Only 5% of patient’s report runny nose and a sore throat. Recovery time is approximately 2 weeks, with more critical cases requiring 3-6 weeks.
The question on everyone’s mind is how sick will I get? A large study in China found that 80% of confirmed cases had mild symptoms: meaning no infection in the lungs; 15% were severe: including low blood oxygen and other lung problems; while fewer than 5% were critical: featuring respiratory failure and multiple organ issues. The problem with this study is that many people who have the disease may be asymptomatic and therefore the percentages of severity may be far less. Moreover, if conducted by China, the accuracy of the data is undoubtedly suspect.
The most recent figures of the World Health Organization say there is a 3.4% mortality rate whereas the seasonal flu kills about .1 percent of those infected. The newness of the disease means that more people are susceptible as they have no built-up immunity. The disease is particularly dangerous for older people with heart, lung and immunological conditions as evidenced by Italy where 81 of the 105 patients who died were an average age of 81. Young children have been mostly spared from serious consequences which has led baffled scientists studying how to mimic children’s immunity with drugs or therapeutics and thereby diminish the disease to a mild infection.
The hardest hit countries have been China, Italy, South Korea and Iran. Italy, on complete lockdown, has been hit the second hardest with over 10,000 cases and 630 deaths-more than that of Iran, France and South Korea combined. Why has Northern Italy suffered such dire consequences? Some explanations include that much of the population is older, more than 21% of Italians smoke (compared to 14% in the US) and their social demeanor often has them kissing each other on both cheeks-a no-no according to the CDC. Moreover, the vast amounts of Chinese in Italy may have contributed to the numbers despite Italy’s ban on flights from China on January 31st-which may have been too late.
Unfortunately New York City and its outlying areas have been hit hard with the Jewish community suffering in a previously unthinkable fashion. With over 300 cases in New York State, New York City has declared a state of emergency as of Thursday afternoon. Additionally, a one-mile radius containment zone has been created around the New Rochelle synagogue as more than 148 cases in Westchester County have been reported with multiple cases linked to a 50-year-old Jewish lawyer who attended services on Feb 22nd and a bat mitzvah and funeral on February 23rd at the New Rochelle synagogue while experiencing respiratory issues. His children who attend SAR and Yeshiva University have tested positive exposing these schools and students from Frisch who went to the bat mitzvah to the disease. For the past nine days the lawyer has remained in a medically induced coma at Columbia Presbyterian hospital and everyone is praying for his speedy recovery. However, due to the severity of his case and the close-knit nature of the Jewish community Rabbis have been urging congregants to avoid gathering in groups and intimate settings as Yeshivas and Colleges have closed for the indefinite future.
With all the justified hysteria surrounding this highly contagious affliction preoccupying the media there seems to be a flicker of good news on the horizon. Firstly, the outbreak in China, the most hard-hit area has passed its peak leading to hope that this disease ebbs after a period of a couple of months. Moreover, warmer climates such as Florida and Australia possess far fewer cases of the virus leading me to believe that just as SARS was contained in May 2004 this too will imminently end when the warmer weather appears.