Across the country, the streets are quiet and the hospitals frenzied. Schools have shut down and everyone deemed non-essential are working from home. Or not working at all. Only the medical personnel, grocery workers, and a collection of others continue in public.
It took some time for the United States to incur its initial case of Coronavirus, with its first infected citizen testing positive on January 21st, 2020. It wasn’t until a month after that did the United States see its first death. As the case numbers surged in China, France, Italy, and Iran, America still maintained a relatively low count of confirmed cases.
By the end of February, President Donald Trump had been addressing the crisis, affirming the situation was restrained. “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”, the president said on Twitter, February 24th. During the time of Trump’s tweet, there were not yet 20 cases in the US.
He also voiced the belief that the cases would go down to zero in the country, assuming the patients would be contained. Unfortunately, that did not happen. By March 2nd, the US had reached 100 cases and grew from there.
On March 15th, with only a handful of confirmed patients in New York City, Mayor Bill De Blasio closed down the New York school system. It is the largest school system in the US. On the same day, the Center for Disease Control also recommended against any gathering of 50 people or more across the country. For much of the nation, schools had closed but daily life still continued.
The second half of the month is when widespread closings started to happen. Bars, movie theaters, gyms, and restaurants shuttered their doors. Court cases were postponed, fewer and fewer people could be found on the street, and daily life for most Americans only occurred in their homes. State by state, governors began to declare states of emergency and urged or mandated that citizens stay indoors.
Although the United States was not one of the first countries to be struck by the virus, it has become the epicenter of the pandemic, with the most confirmed cases in the world. One city, in particular, has endured the brunt of the virus. Hovering around 65,000 confirmed cases and 3,500 deaths, New York accounts for around 40% of confirmed cases in the United States. Partially due to the high population, the heavy traffic of travelers, and the density of the city, New York is now overwhelmed by cases.
“Even as hospitals across New York become inundated with coronavirus cases, some patients are being left behind in their homes because the health care system cannot handle them all,” writes Ali Watkins of the New York Times.pret
Much like hospitals in Italy and Spain, several healthcare facilities in New York City have been buried by a cacophony of patients. Andrew Cuomo, the state’s governor, has been fighting to obtain more ventilators and proper protective equipment for healthcare personnel. There are fears that the supplies will fall short as the virus peaks in the oncoming weeks.
A Brooklyn paramedic told the Times she just started sewing her own masks with bandannas and coffee filters, rather than go unprotected.
Recently, New York has declared that Emergency Services will not bring cardiac arrest patients to the hospital for revival. Instead, if they can’t be resuscitated where they fall, they must hope for recovery or succumb to the attack.
Not all states are faring as poorly, with each state having a unique reaction to the outbreak. More rural or less-densely populated states such as New Mexico and Kentucky have seen far fewer cases, with approximately 400 and 1,000 cases respectively.
Although each of these states have considerably smaller and more spread-out populations, they are doing relatively better, partially due to their early response to the crisis. The effectiveness of this early reaction can be seen clearly when looking at Kentucky’s neighbors. Tennessee, the state bordering Kentucky to the south, waited one week longer to declare a state of emergency and as a result, has seen a spike in confirmed cases in comparison.
The hit on the United States’ economy has also been considerable. The stock market has fluctuated substantially, but is currently near pre-virus levels. This likely occurred due to the increased confidence from a $2 trillion stimulus package pushed through Congress. It was the largest stimulus package in US history.
As the restaurant and retail industries have suffered the brunt of the virus’s onslaught against the contact economy, unemployment insurance claims have reached the highest numbers in recorded American history. As of last week, 10 million people in the United States declared they have lost their job and requested assistance from the government. The country has not seen such a drastic change of unemployment since the Great Depression.
Although the US maintains the highest number of confirmed cases, its mortality rate is one of the lower percentages among countries significantly affected. Hovering around 2.16%, the United States has held the country’s mortality rate at bay compared to Italy’s 11.75%. However, Germany’s 1.1% and South Korea’s 1.67% rates show that more can be done to save lives.
The peak of the outbreak is supposed to come within the next two months, the date differing significantly state-by-state. As of April 4th, 2020. 8,300 people have died in the United States, but according to the White House, those figures will likely get far worse. Some estimates have the potential death toll reaching 240,000.
The Trump Administration has stepped up efforts to fight the virus after initially downplaying the severity of the disease. Some are concerned; however, after President Trump expressed interest in opening up the country after Easter, a move discouraged by the healthcare community. For right now, the quarantine continues.