Health experts are sounding the alarm over the steep rise in coronavirus infections across the United States. The Centers for Disease Control has asked Americans to stay at home to stop the spread of infection and to save lives.
US Surgeon General Jerome Adams is asking everyone to cover their faces when they go outside, telling Americans to expect one of the “hardest and saddest weeks” of their lives. “This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment,” he told Fox News Sunday.
Black Cities hit hard
The National Newspaper Publishers Association has issued a solemn public warning and alert to nearly 50 million African Americans, based on advice from medical experts.
“Black America is now in a state of emergency as a result of the disproportionately deadly impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our families and communities across the United States,” said Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. President and CEO.
“Black Americans should stay at home and only leave home for critical life-essential reasons,” Chavis emphasized. “In fact, all Americans should stay at home to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Before the spread of the coronavirus, Black Americans were already disproportionately burdened with multiple preexisting health conditions, including asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, so our communities are more vulnerable to the impact of the coronavirus, including higher rates of fatalities.”
Black and minority Americans are also at higher risk because they are less likely to have access to health care.
Hotspots have developed in cities with large black populations like New York, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee and New Orleans.
And figures released by Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, for example, show 40 percent of those who have died from COVID-19 are black in a state where African-Americans are just 14 percent of the population.
Is the virus airborne?
Doctors at the World Health Organization believe that the virus is transmitted through droplets from coughs or sneezes. But a number of medical experts are questioning whether the disease could be airborne.
“Currently available research supports the possibility that (COVID-19) could be spread via bioaerosols generated directly by patients’ exhalation,” Harvey Fineberg, who heads a standing committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats, wrote in an April 1, 2020 letter to Kelvin Droegemeier, the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
Fineberg penned the letter in response to a request from the White House OSTP. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened a standing committee of experts to help inform OSTP on critical science and policy issues related to emerging infectious diseases and other public health threats.
The standing committee includes members with expertise in emerging infectious diseases, public health, public health preparedness and response, biological sciences, clinical care and crisis standards of care, risk communication, and regulatory issues.
“The results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing,” Fineberg wrote.
However most doctors including experts in the World Health Organisation say the research shows distancing from people outside your immediate household, washing hands frequently and keeping them away from your face is the best way to avoid catching the virus and to prevent it from spreading.
Search is on for a vaccine or a cure
While the jury is out on how exactly the virus is spread, the evidence shows that the infection rate slows down in places where people are under lockdown.
Most people who become ill have mild to moderate symptoms such as cough and fever that clear up in two to three weeks. Up to one in four people who get the virus may not feel very ill and may not know they are infected.
The vast majority recovers. However, for some people the virus can be severe and even deadly. Around 90 percent of those most affected are older people and those with existing health problems, but younger people are not immune, and people of all ages have died.
The science is still developing, and a vaccine may be found that will prevent people getting severely ill. However, this could take many more months.
New research from China suggests that plasma from someone who has recovered from the virus may help those who are sick.