Well, it has been an interesting – and in many cases, downright frightening – 24 hours. The Coronavirus pandemic is having a significant impact across the world, the nation and right here in the Capital District.
From shelves being stripped clean of toilet paper, nonperishable food items and hand sanitizer, to panic over what to do if your kid’s school shuts down but work doesn’t, this is an unprecedented event for Americans in recent history.
It may seem daunting and scary right now, but as a nation, we have gotten past much worse. This too shall pass. We simply have to think of others as well as ourselves and be sure to exercise caution in our actions. If we go forward with care and compassion, it will make the next few weeks easier on everyone.
It’s hard to distill everything that has happened into a mere five things, as so much is occurring so quickly. But let us try.
1) Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, admitted that the U.S. is still failing when it comes to testing for the novel coronavirus.
Testing for a single case of the virus requires multiple samples from a single specimen. At the time of the congressional hearing at which Fauci testified, the CDC had tested only 11,000 total specimens so far. That’s woefully under the 20,000 tests a day being conducted elsewhere, like in South Korea.
The line of questioning that led to this stark admission stemmed from a complaint by a member of National Nurses United whom the CDC refused to test last week. Despite being exposed to COVID-19 and showing symptoms, the CDC told this nurse that if she had been wearing the proper safety gear and following correct CDC protocol she would not test positive for the virus.
2) Brazil confirmed that Fábio Wajngarten, director of Communications for that country’s president, has tested positive for the coronavirus. He was part of a delegation that met with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence this past weekend at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Pictures show that Wajngarten was, at different times during the weekend, with both Trump and Pence – including a picture Wajngarten himself posted to Twitter standing right beside the president. Both Trump and Pence have declined to self-quarantine and both insist they had no direct contact with this Brazilian official and therefore do not have to be tested as they are showing no symptoms.
Meanwhile, Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott, who was also in attendance at Mar-a-Lago, is self quarantining. He says he has no symptoms and feels healthy, but feels that being in the same room as Wajngarten exposed him to the virus and requires that prudent measures be taken.
3) In his now daily COVID-19 briefing this afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned public gatherings larger than 500 people. This comes as New York has 300 confirmed cases of the virus.
The governor’s directive impacts a wide variety of events and takes effect tomorrow with the exception of Broadway shows, which were shuttered as of this afternoon.
With many sport leagues shutting down and the annual NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade being canceled late yesterday evening, both Cuomo and NYC Mayor de Blasio are recommending that even private gatherings should exercise caution, avoiding having more than 50 people together in a small space.
The states of Washington, California, and Oregon all already have similar restrictions in place.
4) Local stores have been forced to implement purchase limits as inventories are being bought up by those flocking to purchase supplies in light of the pandemic. Popular items are toilet paper, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and over-the-counter cold remedies.
Both Hannaford and the Golub Foundation (Price Chopper, Market 32, et. al) released statements stating that many of these are currently out of stock. As they get inventory back in, it will be made available in a limited fashion to make sure there is enough to go around for the entire region.
Mona Golub reminded Capital Region residents of her company’s home delivery service in partnership with Instacart, highlighting that anyone who shops or delivers for them will be exercising increased caution when it comes to additional hygiene.
5) A vendor who has tested positive with COVID-19 visited Ellis Hospital in recent days, officials there confirmed. This has opened the potential for exposure to staff, patients and other visitors.
Ellis is working with health officials to alert all who may have come into contact with anyone exposed. It is important to remember that being at Ellis alone is not enough to warrant exposure to the virus and that being exposed does not necessarily mean transmission.
As more information is released with potential exposures in the Capital Region, we will work to keep you updated.
Stay healthy. Stay safe. Breathe deeply. And wash your hands.
Photo credit: George Fazio.