COVID-19 pandemic kills tens of thousands worldwide

by Revanth Rao, Cooper Bowen, and Sofia Rossi

National/World Editors

Map by Maddie Dewhirst

News Editor


The extent of the outbreak, as of Mar. 16: the size of the circles corresponds to the number of cases in each country. (Dewhirst)

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a strain of the coronavirus, a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. Symptoms can take five to 14 days to appear; many cases resemble the flu or the common cold, with symptoms including dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, and fever. However, the virus can also lead to more severe reactions, such as pneumonia in both lungs, multi-organ failure, and in some cases death. The most at-risk populations include older adults and people with auto-immune disorders, compromised immune systems, or underlying medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease. According to the World Health Organization, the mortality rate of COVID-19 was 3.4 percent as of early March.

How is COVID-19 transmitted?

The virus can spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals, and other confined spaces, through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Keeping a safe distance – around an arm’s length – away from other people whenever possible minimizes the risk of coming in contact with the pathogen.

Should I wear a mask to protect myself?

No. Most surgical masks are too loose to prevent inhalation of COVID-19. In addition, stockpiling masks leaves those who actually need them, such as health workers and those with compromised immune systems, without adequate protection. However, if you are already infected, wearing a mask can help prevent further spread of the virus.

Why should I care? It’s not like I’m going to die.

Probably not, but you could pass it on to someone who is more vulnerable. If you do that, then you are subsequently putting our healthcare system at risk; there is a limited amount of supplies in hospitals, and overburdened facilities will likely lead to a greater death rate because infected patients cannot receive the care they need.

I think I have COVID-19. What do I do?

The CDC recommends that you immediately attempt to limit contact with other people; self-quarantine if possible, and do not visit public areas. Call your healthcare provider and inform them that you believe you may have the coronavirus. This way, your provider can take steps to test and/or treat you while ensuring that other people are not potentially exposed to the virus. DO NOT go directly to a clinic without calling ahead. 

How is coronavirus treated?

No treatment currently exists for the coronavirus, as it typically disappears after a few weeks because your body develops immunity to the virus, similar to the flu; thus, self-quarantining appears to be the best way to protect yourself and others. At this time, vaccines are currently being developed, but it will be at least several months before one is ready to be tested, and even longer before it’s available to the public.

Have any famous people contracted the coronavirus?

Thus far, actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson, actor Idris Elba, NBA players Kevin Durant, Rudy Gobert, and Donovan Mitchell, and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie have all tested positive. In addition, many have decided to self-quarantine out of an abundance of caution, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Has an outbreak like this happened before?

The SARS outbreak of the early 2000s was also caused by a strain of coronavirus and had a higher death rate, but saw far fewer transmissions. The Spanish Flu outbreak from 1918-1920 infected 27 percent of the world’s population and killed somewhere from 20 to 50 million people, but healthcare has significantly advanced in the ensuing century.

Is there an end in sight for this pandemic?

Because so little is currently known about COVID-19, experts are still uncertain about whether or not the virus will continue to spread during summer, when the traditional flu dies down due to warmer temperatures. However, taking preventative measures and limiting the spread of the coronavirus will help until a vaccine is developed.

How to Stay Safe

  1. If you feel sick, stay home from work or school.
  2. Avoid close contact with other people, especially those who appear sick.
  3. Wash your hands throughout the day, making sure to spend at least 20 seconds scrubbing thoroughly with soap.
  4. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  5. Stock up on a 30-day supply of groceries, household items, and prescriptions.
  6. Avoid any non-essential travel.

(Sources: CDC, NYT, Time, WHO)

Categories: National, Web Exclusive, World

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