What is the current state of coronavirus (COVID-19)?
As of March 8, there were 559 coronavirus cases in the U.S., but as of March 11, that number had grown to 938. Unofficial estimates put the number of cases over 1,000. So far, 38 states plus the District of Columbia are all reporting cases, and 29 deaths have been confirmed. By the time you read this, these numbers will almost certainly have increased. Globally, large outbreaks have occurred in Italy, South Korea, Iran, and Japan following the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China. There are 118,326 cases globally, with 4,292 deaths, and the virus has been confirmed in 113 countries.
Here is the good news. Our government was preparing for a health emergency long before COVID-19 was first reported. In June 2019, President Trump signed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), which reauthorized public health and preparedness and response programs. PAHPA gives our public health officials the tools they need to quickly and effectively respond to a health emergency. In addition, Congress and the Trump administration increased funding for agencies and programs that address health emergencies over the last few years, such as NIH, CDC, Advanced Biomedical Research, the National Stockpile, and Infectious Disease Response.
Ever since China first reported the virus, our government officials have worked tirelessly to contain the threat. To further our efforts, President Trump signed an emergency supplemental that provides $8.3 billion to expand the availability of test kits, invest in research and help our public health professionals effectively monitor and prevent further spread of the illness.
We now have test kits distributed in every state and are seeing progress on the creation of a vaccine. Experts believe that at least one vaccine candidate could be ready for human testing in roughly six weeks. That is remarkably quick for a process that typically takes years. Right now, Americans should remain calm but stay up to date on this health crisis and trust that your federal, state and local governments are doing everything we can to keep Americans safe.
How is COVID-19 affecting the economy?
Americans are rightfully worried about how COVID-19 will impact our economy, and the truth is there is global uncertainty about how this disease will disrupt economic activity. Over the past two weeks, we have seen the U.S. stock market plummet. However, we will not let this virus destroy the economy we worked so hard to rebuild. The emergency funding mentioned above also included $20 million for small business relief for those companies impacted by the virus, and President Trump has already proposed stimulus measures designed to stabilize the economy.
Since China is a leading source of many manufacturing goods, there is no doubt the production pause of several businesses and plants Mainland China – to prevent spread of the virus – impacted the global economy. Beyond that, flights, hotels, restaurants and other industries are hurting because of coronavirus fears. Individuals should heed warnings by the U.S. Department of State and CDC and make careful decisions on travel. However, the coronavirus will only affect our markets temporarily; and once the virus is under control, nations can work together to help bring our global economy back to stability once again.
How can I help keep myself healthy?
Everyone should incorporate the following steps into your daily routine: wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth if you have not washed your hands; stay home if you feel ill; cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue; and disinfect commonly utilized surfaces like door handles and countertops. Older people and people with weakened immune symptoms are most at risk of severe symptoms, but this virus can result in severe symptoms – including death – to anyone who contracts it. For those who fall into these categories, on top of the precautions listed above, consider limiting your travel and avoid large groups.
Our communities, local businesses, schools and churches should also be proactive in encouraging your members, students and workers to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer frequently. Also, schools and daycares should sanitize desks, tools and toys daily. In addition, each entity should create a plan to prepare for a health emergency. It will take a national, state, and local approach to lessen the negative effects of COVID-19, but if we each do our part, we will get through this health epidemic together.