COVID-19: The Past, Present, and Future

Dear Asian Youth,


The pandemic has changed almost every aspect of our lives. Here are some major events in humanity’s journey to fighting COVID-19:


December 31, 2019: First pneumonia case of unknown origin in Hubei, China.


January 10, 2020: The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies the coronavirus with reference to SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), in addition to assessing tools and devising plans.


January 11-12, 2020: China releases the coronavirus genome, enabling others to develop diagnostic kits across the world.


January 13, 2020: Incubation period of coronavirus identified as 14 days.


January 13, 2020: Thailand's Ministry of Public Health announced that they have the first case of the coronavirus outside of China.


January 23, 2020: Quarantine placed on Wuhan, China, restricting travel both in and out.


January 30, 2020: The World Health Organization declares the coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern.


February 11, 2020: The World Health Organization names this strand of coronavirus, COVID-19.


February to March 2020: Additional preparedness efforts are put in place such as handwashing techniques, training of doctors and nurses, and monetary and supplemental donations to medical personnel.


March 3, 2020: Shortage of protective equipment for health workers is at its peak. The WHO estimates that industries must increase manufacturing by 40% to meet demands.


March 10, 2020: Elderly people identified as a high-risk group for COVID-19.


March 11, 2020: WHO categorizes COVID-19 as a pandemic.


March 19, 2020: Governor of California, Gavin Newsom enables statewide stay-at-home order.


March 20, 2020: Director-General announces that young people are not immune to the virus and that COVID-19 still has the power to hospitalize younger generations; Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, announces statewide stay-at-home order.


March 23, 2020: United Kingdom Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announces a stay-at-home order, closing down all non-essential shops and services More than 10 U.S. states issue various levels of lockdowns.


April 13, 2020: Under WHO’s guidance, experts come together to aid in expediting the availability of a vaccine.


June 13, 2020: A new cluster (>100 cases) of COVID-19 cases discovered in Beijing, China.


June 16, 2020: WHO reports dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory medicine, can drastically reduce mortality in critically ill patients.


July 3, 2020: The U.S. reports over 55,000 new cases, marking a new daily record.


July 9 to 14, 2020: Global coronavirus cases increase by 1 million.


In the 200 plus days since the first case was identified, COVID-19 has put scientists around the world to understanding and treating this disease. From research COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, has been identified as a respiratory disease. Despite common misconceptions, the term “coronavirus” is not a disease, but rather a family of viruses ranging from the common cold to SARS and MERS- thus the early rumor that COVID-19 had a mortality rate similar to the flu. The virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), causes the disease we now know as COVID-19.


COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, and talking. Therefore when taking precautionary measures, many have recommended the use of masks to slow the range that these droplets can travel in the air. Masks act as a sort of “filter” to particles of water, bodily fluid, and other molecules to decrease the force and prevent foreign particles from entering. Due to the nature of SARS-CoV-2, both to humanity’s advantage and disadvantage, it is simultaneously easy and difficult to control. Because it is a virus, it only has an outer protective protein coat that can easily be denatured by soap and other forms of cleaning. However, unlike bacteria, they have a core of genetic material that can reprogram cells in its host. This means that antibiotics, the medicine used to kill bacteria, do not work. And as of now, there is no vaccine for COVID-19, so we are relying on the body’s immune system with the aid of modern technology.


People with underlying medical conditions and the elderly are most vulnerable to COVID-19 due to their weakened immune systems. The virus can compromise the body, thus causing the person to fall ill. In the elderly, those 85 and older are most at risk, but as a general rule, the older a person is, the more vulnerable they are.


As of July 15, 2020, there were 13,397,167 total recorded cases1 in more than 177 countries. More specifically, in the United States, there is a skyrocketing rise in COVID-19 cases- with no real foreseeable “peak”. Despite this alarming rate, many citizens have chosen to disregard lockdown policies, ignore blatant pleas from the public to wear masks, and constantly meet in crowded areas.


Oftentimes, an excuse to not wear a face mask is that they make it “hard to breathe.” Though masks may be uncomfortable, according to the American Lung Association (and numerous educational Tik Toks), masks do not lower oxygen levels in the body and do not weaken the immune system.


However, possibly most upsetting, is news that President Donald Trump announced that hospitals should no longer report COVID-19 cases to the National Healthcare Safety Network site. He had previously tweeted, “Cases, Cases, Cases! If we didn’t test so much and so successfully, we would have very few cases” and that the media enjoys reporting on the growing cases but doesn’t report the “mortality rate go[ing] down”. By collecting less data, there are less reported cases, however, they still exist as cases regardless. This blatant ignorance is an extremely detrimental act against America. Making statistics unclear and creating unreliable information that the American people look to alternatively creates a sense of false hope that cases are decreasing when research shows otherwise.


Currently, the United States is leading with the most COVID-19 cases in the world, more than 15 times that of China and six times that of Spain and Italy, the previous epicenters of the pandemic. The reason for America’s failure in controlling the virus has stemmed from multiple issues including high uninsured rates, astronomical out-of-pocket costs required, and low medical capacity. If the people do not have medical insurance and are required to pay the skyrocketing costs of medical bills, it is commonplace to ignore symptoms and not get tested or hospitalized for the sake of their wallets. This provides insufficient data on the true numbers of people who have the virus, adding to those who are not reported due to having any or mild symptoms. On the flip side, those who are willing to seek medical attention may find themselves with minimal care as resources run short. As America eventually realized its faults, it was too late. States began to close down businesses and enact stay-at-home orders to hopefully slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, but enough damage had been done. Accompanied by the American people’s lack of respect for the severity and conspiracy surrounding the disease, cases have surged and continue to rage with no foreseeable end.


On a brighter note, however, there has been research to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 and three companies have brought promising results. According to the New York Times, each vaccine is “produc[ing] strong immune responses with only minor side effects”. Despite this, scientists cautioned that this means varied antibody responses for each individual and do not guarantee immunity for all. Oxford, the most advanced company that was the first to test on a large scale, found that the vaccine may require a booster shot as it shows the most promising immunity responses with it. They are hoping to develop the vaccine by manipulating the harmless adenovirus so it mimics the coronavirus and creates an immune response. None of the trials have been able to measure results for more than a few weeks so it is difficult to provide reliable information regarding the long effects. Overall, our miracle is far from around the corner.


Regardless of your background, race, age, sexuality, political party, as a human on planet Earth, protect yourself and others. Death knows no bias, so please educate yourself and your loved ones.


- Allison Li