Every Area of American Life Is Affected
We live in unprecedented times.
Many of us thought what is currently going on in the world could never happen in America.
A virus originating in China has turned into a pandemic. It has now infected 632,548 people in the U.S. and caused 31,071 deaths. More than 9,000 of these cases are healthcare professionals. Worldwide, there are over 2 million cases, and over 150,000 deaths.
Those were the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday. No doubt they are higher as you read this.
And the general consensus is that the actual number of U.S. cases is well over 1 million. Due to many infectious individuals not having been tested.
Will It Ever Be the Same Again?
COVID-19 has changed every American's life in one way or another. Many of us wear face masks and gloves when out in public.
Our children and grandchildren don't go to school. We don't eat in restaurants or go to movies. We don't attend sports events or concerts. Or go to plays or museums.
We limit our trips to the grocery store. Or we place orders for delivery, avoiding stores altogether. When we do go out, we make sure we stay at least six feet away from others.
Everything has changed. And some of us wonder if things will ever be the same again.
Trump Halts WHO Funding
Today I want to take a look at a few specific aspects of the coronavirus affecting our lives.
Last week President Donald Trump announced he is halting funding for the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2019, the U.S. contributed $553 million to WHO.
Early on his decision to impose travel restrictions on China was fought by WHO. Trump said the organization's reluctance to recommend travel restrictions was responsible for a "20-fold" increase in worldwide cases.
He added that his travel restrictions have saved "thousands and thousands of lives."
Economic Council Formed
Next, Trump announced he is forming an economic council. It will advise him on when and how to "reopen" the country's economy.
The council will consist of, among others, Jamie Dimon, Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg. They are the chief executives of JPMorgan Chase, Apple and Facebook, respectively.
Others will serve on economic revival industry groups. They include Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Plus former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. And former senator and president of the Heritage Foundation, Jim DeMint.
Re-openings Will Not Be Uniform
The reopening of the country's economy is likely to be a slow, gradual process. And it will look different in various states.
That's due to where states are in terms of recent increases or decreases in confirmed cases.
Trump said, "I will be speaking to all 50 governors very shortly. And I will then be authorizing each individual governor of each individual state to implement a reopening."
He added that re-openings would be "at a time and in a manner as most appropriate" for each state.
Are We Headed to a Depression?
Business shutdowns have damaged the U.S. economy significantly. In the past three weeks, 17 million people have filed for unemployment. Some say we are already in a recession. And that a depression could follow.
The International Monetary Fund says the world economy will suffer its worst year in 2020 since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The goal of reopening businesses is to start the process of getting back on track. Some people believe we can tone down restrictions by May 1.
But how will these re-openings and the softening of social distancing policies affect our health?
Relaxed Safeguards Lead to Virus Surges
In other countries the coronavirus is surging back in places where it had seemingly been restrained.
Such as in China and Singapore. And in Hong Kong, Taiwan and other Asian states. If Americans are soon told it's OK to return to work and socialize again, will the virus surge back here as well?
Michael Osterholm is an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota. Here's what he says.
"I think people haven't understood that this isn't about the next couple of weeks. This is about the next two years."
'There's No Real Playbook'
Gottlieb said states should relax their restrictions only after new case counts have fallen for 14 consecutive days.
As of last week, the U.S. was averaging approximately 30,000 new cases per day.
Another group of health experts says stay-at-home orders should continue until at least May 20.
Caitlin Rivers is with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. She said, "We've never faced a pandemic like this before in modern times. So we're going to have to be flexible. There's no real playbook."
New COVID-19 Test Sparks Hope
Health officials are also concerned about a second wave of the coronavirus. Likely to occur in the fall.
That means America has about six months to prepare for it. By producing more personal protective equipment and hospital beds. And much more testing.
One piece of good news is that a new self-administered saliva test could be rolled out soon. It would mean many more people could be tested.
That would allow medical facilities to focus more on those who truly need care. And it would help health officials track infections better.
In the meantime, please do everything you can to stay safe. And let's look out for each other.