As I write this, we are in the middle of a global pandemic caused by a virus called COVID-19, also known as the CoronaVirus.
I wrote my first COVID-19 story for the Gazette on March 13, 2020, and since then, I’ve written something about it nearly every day – cancellations, closures, how to help our neighbors and OMP businesses, Peninsula Township news, OMP travelers trying to get home, a message for snowbirds and more.
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A COVID-19 Timeline
I wanted to write this story to document where we’re currently at with the virus, as well as a brief history of pandemics throughout history. When I look at some of the global pandemics we’ve managed to survive through, it gives me hope that we’ll get through this one, too. I know we will.
According to the World Health Organization, the virus was first reported in Wuhan, China on Dec. 31, 2019. By Jan. 30, 2020, the virus was declared a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” and on Feb. 11, it was given a name: COVID-19.
On March 11, the World Health Organization declared that we had a global pandemic on our hands. I don’t know about you, but I’ve watched enough sci-fi movies to know that when someone mentions “pandemic,” that’s probably a good time to start worrying. For the record, a pandemic is defined as the worldwide spread of a new disease for which most people do not have immunity.
Current COVID-19 Numbers
Here are the COVID-19 numbers at this writing, April 5, 2020 (G.T. County; Michigan; Other Info). Check those links for updates, because this is a fast-growing pandemic and by tomorrow, these numbers will be outdated.
- Grand Traverse County: 12 cases; 3 deaths; 3 recovered
- Michigan: 15,718 cases; 617 deaths
- United States: 336,085 cases; 9,602 deaths; 17,245 recovered
- Worldwide: 1,270,849 cases; 69,380 deaths; 261,316 recovered
A (Very) Brief History of Pandemics
Our world has survived through many pandemics, including cholera, the Bubonic Plague, smallpox, AIDS, typhus, yellow fever, measles, tuberculosis, various strains of influenza and more.
The Bubonic Plague, which took place from 1346 to 1353, traveled from Asia to Europe with devastating consequences. Some estimates suggest that it wiped out more than half of Europe’s population. It was caused by a strain of the bacterium Yersinia pestis (that is likely extinct today, thank goodness) and was spread by fleas on infected rodents.
In the past century, flu pandemics have included the Asian Flu (1956-1958), the Hong Kong Flu (1968), H1N1 Swine Flu (2009-2010), and the Spanish Flu (1918-1920).
Some 500 million people fell victim to the Spanish Flu, which was enhanced by the cramped conditions of soldiers and poor wartime nutrition during WWI. My grandma’s (Stella Smith Johnson) first husband, Frank Edgecomb, was one of those. He died on March 7, 1918 of pneumonia caused by the flu while training at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. I wrote about that here.
Here’s a good timeline of pandemics throughout history.
COVID-19 and Social Distancing
According to the World Health Organization, the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and a dry cough. Some patients have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop a serious illness or die from COVID-19.
Some carriers of the virus don’t have any symptoms at all, which is why we are all practicing “social distancing” right now, to thwart the spread of the virus and lessen the impact on our healthcare symptoms. COVID-19 is particularly contagious and spread primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze.
It also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. We are being told to wash our hands (a lot), cover coughs and sneezes, avoid touching our eyes, nose, and mouth, and mostly, stay home.
Stay Home, Stay Safe
At this writing, there is no known vaccine or specific antiviral treatment, although the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine is being looked at as a possibility. As of today, the FDA has granted emergency-use authorization to use it to treat COVID-19 patients amid the pandemic.
In short, most of the United States is now in a state of self-quarantine and shelter-at-home, and some states have a curfew. Michigan does not have a curfew (yet), but on March 23, 2020, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order mandating that everyone in the state “Stay Home, Stay Safe.”
Under the executive order, we’re allowed to go out for essential reasons, such as medical needs and grocery shopping, but as you might imagine, going anywhere is a cause for anxiety. I have more to say about that, so stay tuned to the Gazette.