Updated: Sep 21
Since the first reported case hit our shores on January 20, 2020, our lives have forever changed. We are now almost a year into a global pandemic, and it's one unlike any we've recorded since the 1918 flu pandemic. Like then, the SARS COV-2 virus has claimed the lives of over 344,000 Americans as of December 31, 2020. A further 80,000 deaths are estimated heading into the new year.
So, as we stumble into 2021, there are still many who are unaware of what we're dealing with on a global, national, state and local level. With this blog post, we hope to cover everything you need to know about Covid-19 in 2021.
What is the Coronavirus/COVID-19?
COVID-19, aka the Corona Virus Disease 2019, is caused by the SARS-Co-V-2 virus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in animals and some humans.
These viruses have been around for decades and include the common cold.
This 'novel coronavirus' originated in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, and the resulting COVID-19 disease rapidly spread across the world.
By March 11, 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
This contagious disease spreads through droplets in the air when someone sneezes, coughs, or even talks. The droplets are inhaled into the lungs, causing respiratory distress. The virus can also linger in the air and on surfaces for extended periods.
How dangerous is the coronavirus?
Persons who contract the coronavirus and develop COVID-19 will experience symptoms like:
● Dry cough, and
● Body aches
Some may also get a sore throat or diarrhea.
What makes the virus so dangerous is that many are asymptomatic and can pass it on to others at risk for more severe symptoms.
Studies estimate that about 80% of persons with COVID-19 should recover. However, 1 in 6 are at risk for more severe symptoms or even death.
Persons with preexisting conditions like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, COPD, and others are at risk of severe illness or death. The elderly and immunocompromised are also more likely to become gravely ill.
In fact, 95% of deaths were in adults 50 and over.
This does not rule out younger persons.
There are now countless cases of younger adults with no underlying conditions succumbing to the effects of COVID-19.
Younger persons who are pregnant, suffer from asthma, HIV, cystic fibrosis, or other severe conditions can become severely ill.
Persons with severe symptoms have difficulty breathing, chest pain, and may develop pneumonia. Most coronavirus deaths are related to pneumonia or underlying complications affected by the virus.
Keeping safe from the coronavirus
It's difficult to fight an enemy we cannot see and does not discriminate. However, some steps have proven effective in reducing the chances of infection.
For starters, practice social distancing and mask-wearing.
Limiting your interactions with people, avoid large gatherings and areas that are susceptible to infection. Wearing a cloth mask that covers your nose and mouth significantly reduces the chances of transmission.
If you do need to interact with others, maintain a safe distance of at least 6 feet. Concerning shopping or other business activities, carry disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer to use as often as possible.
Do not travel unless absolutely necessary. Traveling can significantly increase the risk of infection. If travel is needed, make sure to review the protocols of the airline. Maintain mask-wearing and social distancing at all times.
If you come into contact with someone infected, it's advisable to quarantine for about two weeks. This timeframe reduces with consecutive negative tests.
These measures seem obvious and have been advised by different health experts around the world.
But it bears repeating.
Masks, limiting contact, and social distancing works.
Remember that we don't only have to worry about our safety. We have a responsibility to the elderly and immunocompromised in our homes and lives. Getting infected might be just a headache for you, but it could be a death sentence for them.
While there are no cures, maintaining a healthy diet, exercise, and supplements can't hurt. For instance, some studies are highlighting the effectiveness of vitamin D in preventing death.
One should not take the coronavirus lightly. If you show symptoms or suspect you have COVID-19, work on getting tested as soon as possible.
How do I get tested for the coronavirus?
Testing is best for persons with symptoms or those who had direct contact with someone with the disease. Persons involved in large gatherings - particularly gatherings without masks - should get tested.
Each state has its stipulations for tests. Most tests are requested by a doctor. You will receive either a viral test or an antibody test. The viral test helps to check for the presence of the virus and confirm any existing symptoms. An antibody test identifies if you previously had COVID-19 and developed the necessary antibodies. Antibody tests must be completed several days after infection to be effective.
Make sure to follow the healthcare provider's instructions to ensure the health and safety of all involved.
In some states, you may need to perform your own nasal swab with a provided swab kit.
The results can take a few hours to days, depending on the availability of a testing lab.
If you suspect that you have COVID-19, begin to self-quarantine even while waiting for the results.
If the result is positive, make sure to follow the doctor's instructions for a successful recovery. Negative results do not necessarily mean you don't have COVID-19. The test may not yet reveal the disease. Make sure to monitor your health in the days after testing and get another test as needed.
I'm sick. Now what?
It's understandable to be scared now that you've tested positive. By now, you would have known at least one person with COVID or read about a famous figure contracting the disease.
Make sure to inform your immediate family and those you would have had direct contact with over the last week. These persons will need to get tested, as well.
Stay home and rest. Do not go out to public spaces and have supplies sent to you as needed.
Do you live with others? Then you will need to quarantine in a room away from your family and pets as often as possible. Clean shared surfaces like bathrooms daily. You may also need to get your own utensils, linens, and supplies to avoid spreading the virus on surfaces.
If you must interact with your family, wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth. Maintain a safe distance since you can pass on droplets with the disease during this time. You will experience fever, coughing, sneezing, and dry mouth. Keep hydrated and follow the instructions of your doctor.
As time goes on, monitor your symptoms closely. If you're having difficulty breathing, chest pain, or other strange but dangerous symptoms, seek medical attention. Be clear with the healthcare provider or emergency services about your condition.
Make sure to pack essentials and clothing since contact with loved ones in the hospital will be limited.
The CDC recommends that you can be around others after ten days if you were asymptomatic. Persons who were severely ill due to an underlying health condition will need more time - up to 20 days - and a follow-up test to make sure it's safe to be around others again.
Is there a new strain?
A new strain of the coronavirus was recently discovered in the UK. That strain has since come over to the US, with the first cases in California and Colorado.
Scientists expected these changes since viruses evolve.
A typical example is seasonal flu, which evolves every 3-5 years.
So far, there is no evidence that the new strain is more virulent, though this variant seems to spread more quickly.
There should also be no negative impact on the vaccine to this new strain. The new coronavirus strain is an evolving story but should only increase our awareness and safety measures.
All About Vaccines
After receiving the virus's genetic sequence in January, scientists and pharmaceutical companies alike started the race to develop a vaccine. Crafting a safe, effective vaccine is a long, complicated process that often spans several months and even years. Even then, the vaccine must go through several checks and balances before approval by the FDA.
With COVID-19, time is of the essence. Recently, the FDA gave a vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Moderna soon followed on December 18 with authorization to use their vaccine.
EUA is not an FDA approval. However, the failsafe has been in place for decades for demanding situations like this. These vaccines have met the safety requirements for emergency use.
Other vaccines from Astra Zeneca and the University of Oxford are going through phase 3 trials and are expected to be authorized in the coming months.
So far, some 2.8 million Americans have received the emergency vaccine, though this is far below the expected rollout.
Is the vaccine safe?
Vaccine safety is one of several concerns of the general public. There is also a general lack of trust between leaders and Americans. This skepticism could be a significant factor in the speed at which the country is vaccinated.
Most are concerned about the speed in which vaccine was given emergency use, compared to other vaccines. The companies had access to resources and finances unlike any other disease (mainly from Operation Warp Speed), which allowed them to speed up the process. Pfizer's mRNA vaccine is two shots, taken 21 days apart, and was 95% effective in clinical trials. The vaccine is approved for persons aged 16 and older. In time, there will be vaccines to protect younger teens and children.
With any vaccine, there will be some side effects. The goal of a vaccine, after all, is to trigger your body's immune response by introducing a weakened version of the virus. So you can expect headaches, fatigue, and even fever. There should also be pain and swelling at the injection site.
As we've already observed with the approved vaccines, some persons in the UK and Alaska experienced severe allergic reactions after getting their shots. For now, there's no way to know if there are any long-term effects of the vaccine. Persons who have severe allergic reactions to vaccines and their ingredients should not get the shot until further advised by the FDA.
So when can I expect to be vaccinated?
The rollout of the vaccine and who will be first in line will vary. However, most states are being guided by the CDC, which recommends that frontline workers, medical staff, and the elderly be attended first. Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities are particularly at risk and will likely be next in line.
If you do not fall in one of these categories, look out for correspondence from your state's governor or healthcare organization for more details.
For a point of reference, experts estimate by May 2021, everyone should have access to the vaccine, but this timeline can vary. For more information on the vaccine, visit the CDC coronavirus resource, Coronavirus.gov, or the FDA update pages.
The Economic Impact Of The Coronavirus
Regardless of your job, business, or thoughts about the coronavirus, it's impacted your life in some way.
Quarantine, restrictions, and the suspension of mass gatherings have crippled industries like travel, entertainment, airlines, and restaurants. The continued disruption of life can start to affect more industries, causing devastating effects on other sectors. Expect more bankruptcies, closures, rising debt, and slowed growth in 2021, not only in the USA but in the world.
Unemployment has spiked to unprecedented levels when compared to the Great Depression. At one point, more than 20 million Americans were unemployed.
Furthermore, we've yet to feel the real economic impact, with an economic recession expected to continue into 2021.
On the other hand, the pandemic has caused many businesses to pivot. This has brought about a need for remote work, remote services, logistics, health, and safety services. Even during the pandemic, there are new opportunities. The time indoors can be an opportunity to learn a new skill, save, reduce expenses, and prepare for the upcoming economic downturn.
Necessary coronavirus support and resources.
The global pandemic has affected more than our health and the health of our loved ones.
It's also impacted us on a social, cultural, economic, and emotional level.
Long stretches of quarantine and isolation have been incredibly stressful.
Families are also struggling with juggling work and remote learning for kids. This, combined with job loss, financial pressures, and the possibility of getting sick, has created a cauldron of maladies, unlike anything we've experienced.
Luckily, some resources can provide support during these difficult times:
● The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers confidential support for persons in distress.
● The National Domestic Violence Hotline gives support to anyone struggling with relationships at all levels.
● You may be eligible for financial aid via the CARES act.
● And check out this list for a host of free learning resources for quarantined kids.
Make the most of these resources while keeping yourself and your family healthy in the coming months of 2021.
Will we "get back to normal?"
Let's face it.
After hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of infections, what we considered 'normal' is a part of history. The pandemic is unprecedented and will be part of our lives for years to come.
Even with most of the population vaccinated, we still won't end practices like mask-wearing and social distancing soon. If we reach the desired herd immunity, we may be able to do things like go mask-less or have large gatherings.
It's important to understand that in the short-term, COVID-19 will be a part of our lives. We still have to find ways to survive and thrive while practicing social distancing, mask-wearing, and proper hygiene.
Make sure to keep up to date with any developments as the pandemic continues to evolve, even after 11 months. Having up-to-date information could be life-saving. Reach out to us for any questions and support on COVID-19.