More essential coronavirus links March 24-April 2

A roundup of information from physicians, scientists and journalists about the COVID-19 pandemic.

A woman in a mask, walking on the Brookyn Bridge.

From Ed Yong’s new article in the Atlantic: Everyone Thinks They’re Right About Masks. Photo by Victor J. Blue/ Getty.

Updated April 2, 2020:

1. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is considering advising people to use masks in public. The New York Times reports that as many as 25% of infected people may not show symptoms but could still spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. This may explain why the virus has spread so rapidly.

The decision to wear a mask depends on each person’s unique situation. For some help in figuring out what you should do, please check out these two articles, one by Tara Haelle at Forbes and the other by The Atlantic’s Ed Yong.

2. In Iceland, 1% of people in a sample of 9,000 from the general population tested positive for COVID-19. However, of that 1%, about half of those people did not show symptoms or had mild symptoms at the time of testing. This finding, reported by CNN, confirms other studies that the virus is likely being spread by asymptomatic people.

3. In the U.S., hospitals in hard hit areas continue to experience severe shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Unfortunately, a new critical shortage is looming: medications. Esther Choo, a physician and health policy expert, warned about it in a Twitter thread:

When a patient is placed on a ventilator, they need to be sedated because a rigid tube is inserted down the throat, called intubation. This painful procedure requires medications that are in very short supply. Stat News recently wrote about this imminent problem.

4. At locations in the U.S. hardest hit by COVID-19 cases, healthcare workers are being forced to do their jobs with very limited PPE, placing them at higher risk of infection. That’s causing increasing fear and anxiety among the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, nurse’s aides, and other staff who look after patients.

On March 31, the first U.S. emergency room physician died from COVID-19.

Bill Fisher, an ER doctor and former astronaut, is 74 years old, diabetic, and has blood type A. Most of these factors put him at a high risk group for COVID-19.

The situation is so dire that some healthcare workers are updating their advanced directives.

Some healthcare workers, afraid to infect their families, have temporarily moved out of their homes.

There have been several cases of doctors and nurses being fired for speaking out about the lack of PPE that puts them at extreme risk of infection.

And it’s been physically and emotionally draining ….

5. The SARS-CoV-2 virus arrived in Africa, after gaining a foothold in Asia, Europe, and North America, when a case was reported in Nigeria at the end of February.

In a March 31 article posted at Berkeley News, University of California Berkeley economist Edward Miguel, an expert in African economics, expressed concern about what lies ahead:

Even though health infrastructure has improved, in some ways, it remains severely deficient. Most sub-Saharan African countries have very few beds in hospital intensive care units. Some articles I’ve read say Kenya has only 155 ICU beds – for a country of 50 million people.

That’s terrifying. If there’s a significant outbreak, even if there aren’t as many vulnerable elderly people, millions of people still could be affected. Very few will have the care they need with ventilators and other advanced treatment.

Africa is a very diverse continent, with some countries better equipped to handle the pandemic than others. You can read more about these complexities in an extended interview at the Berkeley News website.

6. A “cytokine storm” is when your immune system goes into overdrive, even after the virus has been largely destroyed, attacking vital organs. Doctors think that this happens for as many as 15% of seriously ill patients, and may explain why some young people die from COVID-19. An article in the New York Times explains how it works.

7. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has become a household name for many Americans, a trusted source for medical and epidemiological information about COVID-19. As a result of increasing threats and other unwelcome attention, he has been assigned a security detail.

A woman at a lectern, in front of a chart with a tall black bell curve and a much flatter gray bell curve.

Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Tuesday, March 31, 2020, in Washington. Image via AP/ Alex Brandon.

Updated April 1, 2020:

Just one quick update today, a brief look at the announcement from the White House late yesterday about new modeling work from the University of Washington, which provides new projections for the COVID-19 infection and death rate in the U.S. Assuming the strictest of lockdowns feasible in this country, there could still be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in this country. Without these precautions, the number of deaths could be 1.5 to 2.2 million in the U.S. There is an associated website with much good information. You can see U.S. state-by-state projections, and much more. We’ll have more on how physicians and scientists are reacting to this new model soon.

Note that these numbers are not predictions (they’re not conclusions deduced from a given set of facts). Scientists don’t tend to predict. Instead, they project (arrive at a numeric conclusion, based on calculations and numbers, in a way that’s quantitative and analytical). In a way similar to projections about changes to Earth’s climate over the coming century, the numbers are not set in stone. They are subject to change as conditions change, and as scientists (now rushing to understand COVID-19 and its effects on our world) continue to ply their trades of mathematics, physics, computing and more.

Chart with large bell curve highest in April, and lower curves reaching their peak very slightly earlier.

The first resource use peak – for the U.S. as a whole – is expected to come around mid-April 2020. The numbers are driven by the fact that the U.S. northeast, which now has the most cases of COVID-19, is the most heavily populated part of the country. These U.S. hospital resource use projections are from IHME, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent population health research center at UW Medicine, part of the University of Washington. They were released Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

Tall bell curve elongated to the right (future) and peaking in April.

The U.S. deaths per day rate is predicted to peak in April, for the same reason as in the image above. Projected deaths per day in the U.S. from IHME, released Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

Long S-curves, high, middle, and low, showing continuing almost level rates of death.

Following the peak in death rate in April 2020, the projections suggest a long drawn-out period of illlness and death from COVID-19 in the U.S., as the rest of the country is affected. Total COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., projected to August 4, 2020, via IHME, released Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

Donald Trump in front of impressive columns, looking serious and somewhat bowed.

U.S. President Donald Trump has extended social distancing guidelines until April 30. Image via The Hill.

Updated March 30, 2020:

As of Sunday (March 29) evening, there are 141,995 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S., of which at least 2,486 people have lost their lives. For updates, try this excellent New York Times article tracking the pandemic in the U.S. and around the world. For more international news, try the World Health Organization’s Situation Report page. You might also check the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cases and updates page. And another good one is Johns Hopkins’ interactive map page. And Worldometers offers this page.

1. At a White House press conference on Sunday, March 29, President Trump extended social distancing guidelines until April 30. Originally, the federal guidelines suggested March 30 as an ending date.

The Associated Press wrote:

President Donald Trump on Sunday extended the country’s voluntary national shutdown for a month, significantly changing his tone on the coronavirus pandemic only days after musing about the country reopening in a few weeks. He heeded public-health experts who told him the virus could claim over 100,000 lives in the U.S., perhaps more, if not enough is done to fight it.

COVID-19 continues its relentless spread, as the daily number of infections worldwide continues to jump sharply. World Health Organization figures show the increase in new infections is now about 70,000 per day – up from about 50,000 just days ago. More than 32,000 people have died worldwide. The U.S. had over 139,000 infections and 2,400 deaths, a running tally by a prominent university showed Sunday evening.

2. In a Twitter post, Tom Inglesby (@T_Inglesby), director of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, explained why the administration made the right call about extending the social distancing guidelines period. Social distancing continues to be the best way to reduce transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (coronavirus); without these precautions, hospitals would be unable to cope with the very large numbers of sick people. He warned that places with low incidents of COVID-19 should use this time to prepare for the inevitable increase in sick people.

(Note: the Twitter boxes you see here are links to the original tweet on Twitter. Click inside the box to open the post in Twitter. Some tweets are “threads:” consecutive tweets by one author and/or with responses from others. To see all that – and that’s where the meat is – click on the link on this page, then click again once you’re inside Twitter. Try looking for the words “show this thread.”)

Inglesby also drew attention to a report, published on the American Enterprise Institute website, on how, going forward, the country should deal with the pandemic and what’s needed to bring the spread under control.

3. The critical shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) continues. In an op-ed for The Hill, emergency room doctor Craig Spencer made yet another compelling case for immediately using the Defense Production Act to produce more PPEs – masks, gowns, and eye protection – and other life-saving equipment. He wrote:

My colleagues on the frontline fighting coronavirus are facing a drastic shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).

To protect them – the doctors, nurses and other health care providers treating critical patients every hour of every day – the federal government must immediately mobilize the Defense Production Act and the Strategic National Stockpile.

Yesterday the president ordered General Motors to make ventilators under the Act. He must do the same for PPE. Only by ordering U.S. industries to increase the supply of PPE will we ensure all health care workers have access to the tools we need to stay safe during this pandemic. Otherwise many of us – myself included – are at exceptionally high risk of being exposed and infected.

4. Some US healthcare workers have been posting about their experiences on Twitter. Here are some of them.

Here’s a post from Ian Haydon, who volunteered for a vaccine trial. Thank you, Ian, and thank you to all who are volunteering to help as we continue along the uncharted road of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

Woman in scrubs holding up two long blue tubes hooked to a single ventilator.

There is an acute shortage of these life-saving ventilators in the U.S. One doctor has come up with a “hack” to connect two patients to a single ventilator. For more about the issue of the lack of needed ventilators, see item #5 below. Image via VICE.

Updated March 28, 2020:

Editors’ Note: The U.S. now leads the world with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases: 101,819, of which there are 1,619 deaths (as of Friday evening). If more testing was available, the number of confirmed cases would be greatly higher. Within the U.S. population of 330 million people, there is an urgent need to severely reduce the spread of COVID-19 now. So far, because we’re in a crisis situation, many of the studies suggesting treatments have had small sample sizes and/or are being published online without peer review. Scientists are working furiously to understand whether any of these medications have the looked-for outcome in treating the disease; so far, the verdict isn’t in. 

1. There are several COVID-19 hotspots around the country. New York City has almost half the known number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Other hotspots are emerging in cities such as Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans. The New York Times is tracking cases, and has a country-wide map showing the distribution of COVID-19 cases.

2. There are still not enough COVID-19 tests in the U.S. for all who request them. The situation is improving with each passing day, but slowly. The COVID-19 Tracking Project is compiling most results from labs around the country.

Bloomberg News reports that Abbott Laboratories was just granted FDA approval to distribute a new test – one that looks for fragments of the SARS-CoV-2 virus – that delivers results in minutes, as opposed to other tests that can take as long as a few days. The first batch of 50,000 tests will be distributed on April 1.

Note that there are two kinds of tests:

(i) to find out if a person is infected, a test is needed to detect the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Those tests are critically needed at hospitals, and have been severely hampered by delays.

(ii) the other test detects the presence of antibodies specific to the virus. When a person is infected, the body mounts a defense against the virus, creating antibodies that specifically destroy the virus. This test is useful to find out how many people have already been infected and are immune to the virus; remember, not everyone who was infected had symptoms. It cannot be used to find out if a patient is currently infected because the body has not had enough time to create these antibodies.

3. There has been a widespread misconception that young people are immune to COVID-19. While most acute cases are seen in older people and people with a compromised immune system, there have been some serious cases involving young healthy people. An article in The Atlantic starkly illustrates this point.

The author, Kerry Kennedy Meltzer, a doctor in New York City, wrote:

I am 28 years old. Up until Friday, when people asked me whether I was scared, I would tell them yes – for my country, my colleagues, my 92-year-old grandmother, and all the people most vulnerable to getting seriously ill from the virus, but not for myself. I, like many others, believed that young people were less likely to get sick, and that if they did, the illness was mild, with a quick recovery.

I now know that isn’t the case. The fact is that young people with no clear underlying health conditions are getting seriously ill from COVID-19 in significant numbers. And young Americans – no matter how healthy and invincible they feel – need to understand that.

Here’s a twitter post about a young couple who contracted the virus.

4. The Washington Post reports a continued shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). Doctors are reusing masks after disinfecting them, which is not normal practice and may not adequately protect them against droplets in the air carrying the virus. The CDC has issued guidelines for reusing masks, but it is not an ideal solution. People across the country are stepping up to gather supplies via local appeals from hospitals and local governments to large-scale coordinations by organizations like Project N95. There are also campaigns, like #MasksNow, to sew masks. If you want to donate homemade masks directly to your local hospital, please contact them first to find out if they’re accepted for use.

Some progress is being made in getting more PPEs and ventilators but hospitals and state governments say they are hampered by having to bid against each other for these vital supplies.

5. Ventilators are used to do the work of breathing for critically ill COVID-19 patients by pushing air into their lungs. At this stage, patients have already developed severe pneumonia: the lungs have become inflamed and the patient struggles to breathe as fluid accumulates in air sacs in the lungs. In an article in The Guardian, Christine Jenkins, of Lung Foundation Australia, said:

Unfortunately, so far we don’t have anything that can stop people getting Covid-19 pneumonia.

People are already trialing all sorts of medications and we’re hopeful that we might discover that there are various combinations of viral and anti-viral medications that could be effective. At the moment there isn’t any established treatment apart from supportive treatment, which is what we give people in intensive care.

We ventilate them and maintain high oxygen levels until their lungs are able to function in a normal way again as they recover.

And there is an acute shortage of these life-saving ventilators in the U.S. One doctor has come up with a “hack” to connect two patients to a single ventilator. At least one hospital in New York City has had to resort to it. This is not an ideal solution because machines are set by the amount of air pressure pumped into the lungs, and different patients may need different pressure settings. But in desperate times …

Some doctors have also found that they get better results by having patients lie on their stomach for oxygen therapy and ventilator support.

This tweet explains why having patients lie on their stomach helps them get more oxygen. Turn up the volume to hear it more clearly.

On a grim note, hospitals are also preparing for the possibility that they will have to triage severely ill patients, making excruciating decisions about who lives and who dies. An internal memo was circulated to medical staff at the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan with instructions on how to decide, among the critically ill, who should be treated in the event of a shortage of ventilators. The hospital confirmed the memo was authentic but said it was a worst case scenario, and they had not arrived at that point. This is a situation that all besieged hospitals will have to confront if there are not enough ventilators for those patients who need it.

6. What is the path going forward? If you haven’t already, please read an outstanding article by Ed Yong in The Atlantic titled How the Pandemic will End.

For the immediate future, the University of Washington has created a tool that helps states predict the course of outbreaks so they can plan ahead.

Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote a Twitter thread about what it will take to reduce this outbreak in the coming months.

7. For a quick roundup of Friday’s political news of the day, try this article from The Hill: 16 things to know today about the coronavirus outbreak. It includes the fact that the House passed, and President Trump signed, the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus legislation, the largest emergency spending bill in U.S. history. It reports that Trump also invoked the Defense Production Act for the first time, to make General Motors manufacture respirators. But, according to The Hill:

… we don’t know how many respirators the administration needs, or how many they want from GM.

The Hill also reports on more states enacting quarantines or outright travel bans, and on the fact that the coronavirus is inexorably making its way through the U.S. Congress.

Three men in hazmat suits, spraying something in what looks like an empty airport terminal.

From the live updates page of the Washington Post on March 27: “The United States now leads the world in confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus after surpassing China’s reported total. More than 82,000 people have been infected and nearly 1,200 have died in the United States, which is quickly becoming the new epicenter of the outbreak.”

Updated March 27, 2020:

Breaking news:

From the BBC: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus

Here are some links to basic information you might need, as we plow forward through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

World Health Organization’s coronavirus entry page

World Health Organization’s coronavirus “myth-busters” page

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) coronavirus entry page

New York Times‘ coronavirus entry page (all coverage free during the pandemic)

Washington Post’s coronavirus live updates page (all coverage free during the pandemic)

The Hill’s 15 things to know today about coronavirus (from March 26)

Plus:

From RocketCityMom, a video: This doctor shows us how to sanitize groceries, and it’s very useful (and terrifying)

From the Washington Post: Why not to panic about shopping, getting delivery or accepting packages

Last but not least:

From the European Space Agency: Coronavirus lockdown leading to drop in pollution across Europe

Chart and map showing global coronavirus cases.

Infographic showing coronavirus COVID-19 global cases as of March 26, 2020: 472,790 confirmed cases, 21,313 total deaths and 114,911 recovered. Updates via Johns Hopkins University. Check Johns Hopkins’ live chart for updates.

Updated March 26, 2020:

1. British science journalist Ed Yong has written a compelling piece in The Atlantic on the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S.: where the response went wrong and what we may see in the coming months. The article, released on March 25, is an excellent read. It’s called How the Pandemic Will End.

Yong described the severity of this unprecedented pandemic:

Having fallen behind, it will be difficult – but not impossible – for the United States to catch up. To an extent, the near-term future is set because COVID-19 is a slow and long illness. People who were infected several days ago will only start showing symptoms now, even if they isolated themselves in the meantime. Some of those people will enter intensive-care units in early April. As of last weekend, the nation had 17,000 confirmed cases, but the actual number was probably somewhere between 60,000 and 245,000. Numbers are now starting to rise exponentially: As of Wednesday morning, the official case count was 54,000, and the actual case count is unknown. Health-care workers are already seeing worrying signs: dwindling equipment, growing numbers of patients, and doctors and nurses who are themselves becoming infected.

Italy and Spain offer grim warnings about the future. Hospitals are out of room, supplies, and staff. Unable to treat or save everyone, doctors have been forced into the unthinkable: rationing care to patients who are most likely to survive, while letting others die. The U.S. has fewer hospital beds per capita than Italy. A study released by a team at Imperial College London concluded that if the pandemic is left unchecked, those beds will all be full by late April. By the end of June, for every available critical-care bed, there will be roughly 15 COVID-19 patients in need of one.  By the end of the summer, the pandemic will have directly killed 2.2 million Americans, notwithstanding those who will indirectly die as hospitals are unable to care for the usual slew of heart attacks, strokes, and car accidents. This is the worst-case scenario. To avert it, four things need to happen – and quickly.

The first thing, Yong said, was addressing the alarming shortage of basic emergency room supplies such as masks, gloves, and other equipment that protects health care workers.

The second is widespread testing; Yong explained why initial efforts failed, and how the situation is improving as the FDA has been quickly granting approvals for tests from private labs.

Thirdly, he wrote about the critical importance of social distancing to slow the spread of the virus, to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed with patients.

And his fourth point: efforts to slow the spread of the virus requires clear coordination. To date, the federal government has not issued clear guidelines. Some state and local governments, on the advice of epidemiologists, have taken matters into their own hands while other states have not adopted these mitigation strategies.

Slowing down the pace of the outbreak isn’t enough. As long as the virus is out there, it will continue to infect people. Yong described three possible scenarios for how it could play out. The best approach, he wrote, is to stamp out outbreaks until there’s a vaccine.

Labs around the world are already working on a vaccine. This is a long process that requires extensive testing for safety; it could take 12 to 18 months, and even longer to mass produce. Until then, periods of social distancing may be needed to keep the disease spread at manageable levels for health care workers. How this plays out, Yong says, will depend on several factors, including seasonal effects on virus transmission, how long immunity lasts for people who were infected, development of antiviral drugs, and close monitoring and suppression of outbreaks.

Yong also laid out the sobering realities of the painful economic, psychological, and health care impacts on society as the U.S. battles the COVID-19 outbreak. However, this experience could also bring about positive social changes such as new ways of working, fairer labor policies, and a better health care system.

Ed Yong’s article in The Atlantic is thoughtful, thorough, and thought-provoking. We highly recommend you read it in its entirety.

2. New York City, the largest and most densely-populated city in the U.S., is already being hit hard in the initial stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. The New York Times reports, as of the evening of March 25, there were over 20,000 confirmed cases and 280 deaths. City-wide, over 3,922 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19.

One article described the distressing situation at the Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens. Over a 24-hour period, they lost 13 patients.

3. An article in Nature describes how the blood of patients who recovered from COVID-19, who have antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, will be used as an experimental therapy in New York City hospitals.

4. At the March 25 White House briefing, Anthony Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suggested that COVID-19 could be a seasonal disease. As the Southern Hemisphere moves towards the colder season, more cases are appearing there. Fauci is quoted in an article in The Hill as saying:

I know we’ll be successful in putting this down now, but we really need to be prepared for another cycle.

5. Health policymakers depend on mathematical models to guide their plans for protecting the public against disease outbreaks. But in situations where there’s not enough information about a pathogen, like the SARS-CoV-2 virus, modeling disease outcomes in a population can be tricky.

This is described in a brief overview in The Guardian:

There’s a more detailed account in Science:

6. In states where governments have shut down businesses and encouraged people to work from home, a new appreciation is emerging for the people who keep our society functioning. Economist Byron Auguste tweeted this on March 22:

Updated March 24, 2020:

1. A day in the life of ER doctor Craig Spencer, in New York City.

2. New York Times journalist Donald G. McNeil Jr. has written a fascinating article about what it will take to get through the COVID-19 outbreak. He interviewed experts and studied what was done in China, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan, where efforts to beat back the outbreak have, so far, yielded promising results.

McNeil interviewed David L. Heymann of the World Health Organization. Heymann noted that the virus infects clusters of people within families, friends, and work colleagues. He told McNeil:

You can contain clusters. You need to identify and stop discrete outbreaks, and then do rigorous contact tracing.

In talking to experts in contagious diseases, McNeil found that they all agreed on the steps that need to be taken. He wrote:

Americans must be persuaded to stay home, they said, and a system put in place to isolate the infected and care for them outside the home. Travel restrictions should be extended, they said; productions of masks and ventilators must be accelerated, and testing problems must be resolved.

3. Some policy wonks, politicians, and media pundits have suggested that stay-at-home orders instituted by some state governors are too extreme and will severely hurt the economy. They think people should return to work at the end of the federal government’s 15-day social distancing period. This take captured the interest of President Trump who tweeted about it on March 22:

The Hill reported on March 23 that Trump and his advisors are having fierce debates about how long coronavirus restrictions should stay in place. The Hill wrote:

A number of people around Trump have pushed for prioritizing the economy and sending people back to work as quickly as possible, particularly in less afflicted areas. But Trump’s own public health officials and some of his allies on Capitol Hill have warned against risking higher infection rates and deaths for the sake of boosting the economy in the short term.

Public health experts and scientists continue to say that – given what we know to date – only social distancing and/or a vaccine can contain the COVID-19 pandemic. They say the consequences of ending the coronavirus restrictions too early would be devastating to the elderly and people with underlying health conditions. Tom Inglesby, of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, said in a tweet:

Many models report that health care systems will be completely overwhelmed/collapse by the peak of cases if major social distancing is not put in place …

COVID would spread widely, rapidly, terribly, could kill potentially millions in the yr ahead with huge social and economic impact across the country.

4. The anti-malarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have made the news in recent days as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Public health experts are cautioning that there’s not yet enough evidence for this claim and are concerned about side effects that could be harmful. Interest in this drug originated from a French study with a small sample size (number of patients) where the drug was found to improve symptoms.

Clinical trials for hydroxychloroquine have started or will be starting at research institutions in the U.S. and the World Health Organization. Some doctors are also using it — in the absence of other treatments — on their severely ill patients.

Recent interest in this drug, especially President Trump’s enthusiasm for it, has already led to shortages. This is causing considerable hardships for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients who use it to modulate an overactive autoimmune system. Some people have taken matters into their own hands with tragic consequences; in Phoenix, Arizona, a man died after consuming chloroquine phosphate, a chemical used to treat parasites in aquarium fish. His wife was in critical condition.

For additional details about hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, please see the New York Times article about it.

5. Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb says even though most people who succumb to COVID-19 are ages 60 years and older, young people can fall seriously ill and suffer long-term effects from their illness.


Note: this table is from a CDC report.

6. The numbers we see in the news – of the dead, the sick – represent real people, each with family, friends, and community that cherishes them. Here is one story.

7. The numbers we are seeing, however, are likely not the entire story. They represent only confirmed cases, that is, only cases involving positive tests for COVID-19. In the U.S. last week, testing was not widely available. A new batch of tests was released a few days ago, but, to date, not everyone who requests a test for the disease can get a test, plus some people may choose never to ask for a test. You see that – if everyone in the U.S. were tested for COVID-19 simultaneously – we could identify and isolate those with the disease and the pandemic (in this country) would be over. However, as things stand, there are unreported cases of the disease in the U.S. population.

Another case in point is Russia, which – as of March 23, 2020 – was reporting fewer than 500 cases of COVID-19. A story in EuroNews reported:

President Vladimir Putin had told Russians last week that timely measures put into place at the onset of the outbreak had helped to avoid a ‘massive epidemic’ in the country. Putin had insisted that, in the largest country on the planet, coronavirus infections are ‘under control.’ As of Monday, out of the world’s more than 350,000 confirmed cases, only 438 have been reported in Russia … Suspicions are rife that the official figures could be false, because the data coming out of Russia seems to be contradictory. The Rosstat statistical agency claims pneumonia cases in Moscow increased by 37% in January 2020 compared to 2019.

Bottom line: EarthSky’s essential coronavirus links from March 24 to April 6, 2020. A roundup of information from physicians, scientists and journalists about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shireen Gonzaga