Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Humanity is collectively living in one of the most significant events in modern history. There isn’t a single person on Earth who hasn’t been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in some way. We’ll be talking about it well into our old age, similar to the ways our parents may have experienced the Civil Rights movement and grandparents may have experienced World War II.
Countries with socialized healthcare systems that locked down their economies and shut their borders early were able to flatten their curves and avoid the worst. Here in the US, new coronavirus cases continue to surge.
In the United States, the pandemic has intensified a political climate of fear, tension, and uncertainty that has only escalated since the 2016 election, and has, in turn, created a hotbed of misinformation about the virus’s origins, severity, treatment, prevention, and more.
We can still prevent the worst-case scenarios by educating ourselves on the facts about coronavirus and safeguarding the truth — not post-truth, but an objective truth rooted in science, logic, and real-world data.
We’ll discuss why there is so much misinformation about the pandemic; whether or not increased testing has led to an increase in cases; where to find reliable information about the virus; and examine countries that have dealt with the pandemic responsibly.
Why have coronavirus guidelines changed so much?
There’s a lot of conflicting information about the virus: what it is, how it spreads, who is at risk, and what the symptoms are. It can be hard to get all the facts straight, mostly because the virus is so new. There’s still a lot we don’t fully understand. Scientists are hard at work studying the virus so we can become better equipped to overcome it.
A key first point to make is that there are different names for the virus itself (SARS-CoV-2) and the disease it causes (COVID-19). Another reason why the pandemic has been confusing is its size and scale — how far and how quickly it spread in such a short amount of time. The virus is so contagious that it has swept through entire nations without warning. The situation changes hour by hour.
There are also asymptomatic carriers of the virus to consider. Many carriers of the virus experience no symptoms or adverse side effects at all. This makes the disease hard to track and easy to spread.
The incubation period of SARS-CoV-2 ranges anywhere between 2-14 days. As many as 41% of those infected with the virus may not have symptoms, according to the World Health Organization. During that time, carriers can be spreading the virus to anyone they come into contact with.
Is increased testing responsible for the increase in cases?
Coronavirus facts have become the center of the ongoing culture war in the US between the progressive left and the far-right.
One of the myths surrounding coronavirus stats originates from a public statement President Trump made at a rally in June, claiming that increased testing has inflated the numbers of positive reported cases, and urging states to slow down testing.
On the one hand, it’s true that the availability and frequency of testing have increased since the pandemic began in March. There are currently more new coronavirus tests administered per day than there were in June.
However, the statement itself is based on faulty logic. It’s like closing your eyes and claiming the sun doesn’t exist because you can’t see it. We want to know the full extent of this virus, so we can have accurate information on which to base decisions that affect public health & safety.
If anything, the lack of widely available testing at the onset of the pandemic is likely to have been a factor of the virus’s exponential growth in the United States. In order to mitigate and suppress the pandemic, people need to know if they have the virus so they can quarantine, and inform those they’ve come into contact with to do so as well.
What are reliable sources of data on coronavirus?
With so much misinformation about coronavirus circulating around the internet, the simple act of sorting out facts— knowing what to believe and who to listen to— can be time-consuming and stressful.
Your first source of information should be institutions whose priority and mandate is to protect the public from health and safety threats.
Accurate, up-to-date information on the state of the pandemic can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization websites. They not only continuously report the number of new cases, but they also provide resource guides on subjects ranging from testing to symptoms. However, do keep in mind that new coronavirus data is now bypassing the CDC and going directly to the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services.
For updates on how the pandemic has affected your city, county, or region, search for your local county health departments on Facebook or Twitter. By subscribing to and following their social media feeds, you can get information on the spread of the virus in your area, updates on social distancing and quarantine regulations, and the location of testing sites.
For day-by-day updates that give a more national context, you can turn to news outlets with credibility in health reporting. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NPR hold objective reporting standards you can turn to for reliable information on the politics surrounding the pandemic.
As for raw data sources about the number of cases, your best bets are universities, medical journals, and accredited academic institutions.
John Hopkins University of Medicine publishes an interactive map tracking the global spread of coronavirus. It has a breakdown of reported cases, fatality rate, infection density per 100k people, and visual infographics tailored for each county.
Meanwhile, the COVID Tracking Project includes dashboards with the total number of cases by state, and ethnicity data detailing what ethnic groups have been most affected. The data is sourced from local and state/territory public health authorities, and supplemented with info from official press releases from State Governors and public health institutions.
What Measures Have Helped Other Countries Stop the Spread?
By every standard that matters, the U.S. is not doing well. The number of cases and deaths rise every day. Shelter-in-place orders have demoralized the country. When the pandemic first started escalating in March, the economy ground to a screeching halt.
As a result, tens of millions of people are left unemployed, given a mere $1,200 to get them through a pandemic that could last for another year.
How did it get this bad? Is there anything we could have done to prevent it?
We’ll take a look at countries with success stories that have managed to contain the spread, care for those affected, and mitigate the negative effects on their economies.
There seems to be a few common factors in countries that have dealt with the pandemic successfully:
Socialized healthcare They have infrastructure in place to track cases, isolate infected people, and provide emergency care where necessary.
Universal basic income Those unemployed due to coronavirus received a regular cost-of-living payment so they could stay home and quarantine.
Early lockdowns Countries that shut their borders at the onset of the pandemic managed to contain the spread and prevent new cases from coming in.
Leadership that respects science Governments that listened to health officials and academics studying the virus, and implemented appropriate social-distancing measures
Let’s look at the specifics...
When the pandemic escalated, New Zealand took strong and quick action, and it worked. New Zealand has had few new cases and continues to deal with them carefully.
A big part of the containment process is their four-stage COVID alert system.
Level 4-Lockdown is the strictest: it indicates a widespread outbreak. At Level 4, people are instructed to quarantine at home, and no public gatherings are allowed.
At Level 1, schools and workplaces are open, and people are asked to continue to self-isolate and quarantine. Incoming travel is still heavily restricted. Otherwise, life more-or-less resembles a pre-COVID world.
At every stage, there are clear expectations on what is allowed and how much risk there is. A national, unified alert system like this allows for clear and effective communication at every level of government.
Costa Rica is also frequently cited as an example of a country that is successfully fighting the pandemic.
The country has a universal healthcare system that covers 95% of the population. The government coordinated efforts between its institutions, 30 hospitals, and care teams to treat infected cases. They also established a specialized COVID-19 care center to treat infected patients.
Costa Rica had public health infrastructure already in place that was well-positioned to deal with the pandemic, and the government treated it as a serious health threat from the beginning.
America’s cousin to the north had a spike in coronavirus cases in mid-July, but otherwise has managed to keep numbers low. The Canadian government has put in place universal basic income, providing a social safety net that allows people to stay at home without risking eviction.
Who is Really at Risk for Complications or Death from Coronavirus?
In short: everyone.
Some age groups and demographics are more susceptible to the virus than others, but no one is immune since no vaccine has been developed yet. Around half of the new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. since late-June have been from adults under 35.
The risk for serious symptoms increases significantly with age, and levels of immune compromisation. Severe cases require hospitalization, ventilators, and intensive care. The CDC has reported that every 8 out of 10 people who die from COVID are 65 or older.
The disease also has a higher chance of causing severe symptoms in individuals with respiratory problems and other pre-existing conditions, including:
Chronic kidney disease
Serious heart conditions
Sickle cell anemia
Type 2 diabetes
The CDC has also indicated that people with the following conditions might be an increased risk of coronavirus:
Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
Hypertension or high blood pressure
Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
Type 1 diabetes mellitus
In Conclusion: It's Far From Over
The coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down, but in these times of uncertainty and fear, the best thing we can do is try to make informed decisions that will protect ourselves and each other. We’re all in this together. Here at SpaceshipOne, we’ve compiled resources to help you get the facts on COVID-19 so you can quiz yourself on your knowledge and easily encourage others to do the same.
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