Coronavirus Special Coverage

A collection of news posted throughout the week for those that want signal, not noise.

  • Previous coverage - all of our posts in this ongoing series.
  • Coronavirus status page - learn how to prepare for possible spread to your area. Scenarios, shopping lists, background info and everything else you need, all in one place.

COVID-19: key developments for Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A collection of key developments in the fight against COVID-19 (the actual virus is SARS-COV-2), posted throughout the week for those who just want the signal and not the noise. If there’s something you think we should include, sound off in the comments thread attached to the post.

Visit our Wuhan coronavirus status page and learn how to prepare for possible spread to your area. Scenarios, shopping lists, background info, and everything else you need, all in one place.

Previously: The previous day’s key developments post is here.

The numbers of cases and deaths are reaching frightening levels. Over 20,000 cases were added to the globe in the last 24 hours.  There were almost 1,000 deaths since yesterday, 475 of those in Italy. Italy’s daily growth and daily deaths have surpassed China’s peak numbers. The US and Europe are experiencing large increases in case numbers.

Officials warn that school closures may last longer than initially thought. The impact on working parents is not inconsequential, and many fear losing their jobs. Students, parents, and educators wonder what impact the closures will have on academic performance: will students fall behind? Will standardized test scores decline? Will students be forced to delay testing and matriculation?

It turns out that face masks are rather difficult to make. China made over half of the world’s supply before the pandemic, and although production has increased 10-20 times what it once was, the world is still in short supply. The world is depending on China to resume exports of respirators.

The US government is suspending visa interviews in Mexico to fight the pandemic, which is sending the agricultural industry into a tailspin. New applicants will not be allowed to join the guest worker program that fruit and vegetable growers rely on. This is expected to cut into the supply of a number of fruits and vegetables we would otherwise have on the shelf at the grocery store later this year. This is troubling because shelves are already bare.

The US-Canada border is closed to nonessential travel. Crossing the border for the purposes of recreation or tourism is off the table for now.  Trade, trucking, and work are permitted.

More on why a few weeks of social distancing may not be enough. If the virus circulated for a year or two, temporary measures will do little. Many are prepared or at least amenable to the short-term mitigation we are currently subjected to, but how many could withstand these measures over many months?

Trump invokes the Defense Production Act. This will allow the US to expand production of masks and other needed supplies.

Will the Sun and warmer temperatures help fight the pandemic? We don’t yet know. It is possible for novel viruses to buck expected seasonal patterns because we have no natural innate or herd immunity.

The US government is planning for this pandemic to last a long time and cause a number of concerning supply shortages. 18 months may be a best-case scenario.

Why were we told we didn’t need to wear masks? Just because we don’t have enough to go around doesn’t mean we should lie about the utility of masks.

Another (uncomfortable) look at the curve:


    • Nick

      Great roundup. I’ve found myself glued to the Johns Hopkins map. Check it out.

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    • Jeremiah Johnson

      So pleased to see the NYT Opinion article on masks – FINALLY someone calling this out – hope it goes viral! Protective gloves should be included as well, as we were told they won’t help protect from COVID-19 either.


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      • When I was in Taiwan during SARS, we were all wearing masks. Temps were taken upon entering buildings. And our school had a contingency plan should we have been shut down. I may be misremembering-but I think the government provided meals to those who were involuntarily quarantined.

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