COVID-19 in the United States
Updated: Jan 12
President Trump answers questions concerning COVID-19 at a White House press conference on February 29, 2020. (D. Myles Cullen/White House)
The United States has watched as Asia and Europe battle COVID-19 (aka the novel coronavirus), but the pandemic is now spreading through the U.S. as leaders and scientists scramble to prevent chaos.
How has coronavirus affected the U.S. in the past months?
The first confirmed case of coronavirus in the U.S. occurred in Washington state, where a traveler returned from a trip to Wuhan, China, the starting point of the virus. He returned from Wuhan on January 15, and after showing symptoms, was diagnosed a few days later.
More than a month later, the virus had been named COVID-19, declared a public health emergency, and racked up cases in China, South Korea, and Italy. In anticipation of coronavirus spreading through the states, the Trump administration asked for $1.25 million on February 24. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) forecasted an almost-certain outbreak in America. Still, there were no deaths in the U.S. yet and only 35 confirmed cases.
The virus continued to spread through late February and March. The U.S. reported its first death on February 28, a patient near Seattle. The Trump administration issued a strict travel ban to global coronavirus hotspots: China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran. On March 3, all federal restrictions on coronavirus testing were dropped. The government promised more extensive testing after a severe deficit became apparent.
On March 13, President Trump declared a national emergency, making funds of $50 million available for fighting the onset of the virus. Travel to Europe (except Britain) was banned for 30 days after the W.H.O. declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
Throughout March, the spread of the virus continued to ramp up. The C.D.C. recommended limited gatherings, the New York City public school system announced a shutdown, and several schools, events, and organizations throughout the nation followed suit.
Countries like China and South Korea, which were initially centers of disease spread, are now reporting a decline in cases after reaching a peak during early March. However, the U.S. is only now entering the early stages of coronavirus, and what happens next is up to government action, public cooperation, and the effectiveness of efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.
What’s happening now?
COVID-19 cases continue to climb throughout the country. There are more than 100,000 confirmed cases, and the death toll within the U.S. has exceeded 1,000. With each day, the virus spreads exponentially, despite efforts to quarantine and impose social distancing.
Travel bans have only grown tighter. Schools, churches, restaurants, and large gatherings have been shut down for weeks now in a race to stop the rapid escalation. Streets in Los Angeles and New York City once filled to the brim are empty. Still, coronavirus continues to infect a growing number of people each day, fostering uncertainty and fear about the scope and duration of the pandemic. The effects of the virus, however, go beyond just the disease itself.
As social distancing set in, the result has proved debilitating. Without going to work, some people are unable to earn a living. With children kept at home from school, working parents struggle to shoulder additional burdens. And small businesses such as restaurants have been devastated by a drop in customers. COVID-19 has penetrated households and companies alike; it’s not an exaggeration to say that the virus is crippling the nation on every level.
Apprehension and tension are mounting. The questions persist, without any definite answers: How bad will it get? When will the virus subside? How far will it spread?
What is the U.S. government doing?
On March 25, the Senate passed a $2.2 trillion bill to provide relief for businesses, workers, and healthcare systems. The largest economic relief bill in the nation’s history, it would allocate more money to unemployment insurance benefits and needy hospitals.
The bill was passed unanimously after days of tension between parties. It was the third bill put forward by Congress to provide relief for coronavirus, but the most extensive. The House of Representatives voted and passed it on March 27.
However, while added funds for healthcare and affected workers put COVID-19 at the forefront of the federal government’s priority, the Trump administration is facing disapproval from critics for reacting slowly, ignoring warnings to prepare, and downplaying the magnitude of the virus.
In particular, health officials and doctors agree that the U.S. needs to implement more testing. As of March 24, only about 350,000 people in the U.S. have been tested; one out of every 943, compared to South Korea, where about one out of every 170 people have been tested. In a few words, health officials warn that the U.S. is dangerously lagging in reaction time.
President Donald Trump has promised readily accessible tests, increased production of medical equipment, like ventilators, and a swift decline of the spread of coronavirus. Forecasts predict the nation will not have enough beds, ventilators, and medical staff to handle a full-scale, nation-wide epidemic.
While the government scrambles to fight COVID-19, the nation can only hope that the spread of the virus will soon slow down.