- The new coronavirus that originated in Wuhan China has killed at least 170 people and infected more than 8,2000 worldwide.
- Notably, one cruise ship off the coast of Italy is temporarily preventing any of its passengers from leaving, as the ship’s medical unit investigates a potential case onboard.
- With constant updates and growing fears, doctors have begun trying to assure people not to panic and to take measures to avoid falling victim to misinformation.
Misinformation and Fears Surrounding the Virus
Since the outbreak of a new coronavirus that has killed 170 people in China and infected more than 8,200 people worldwide, many medical doctors have been working to assure people not to panic.
They are also warning the public to be vigilant against misinformation that can rapidly spread from an influx of constant news updates.
“Because this is an [unknown] virus… we tend to exaggerate the risks posed by the virus, and those is going to be associated with all kinds of fear, panic, if not hysteria,” Yanzhong Huang, Director of the Center for Global Health Studies at Seton Hall University, told Yahoo! Finance. “That’s probably going to cause more damage than the virus itself.”
Dr. Danielle Ofri—a physician at Bellevue Hospital in New York City—said that such fears, like with the Ebola and AIDS crises, are not unknown to doctors.
“Fear is a primal emotion, and to pretend that the medical staff are any less susceptible than the general public is folly,” she said.
“But we also have to recognize that there are irrational fears, the kinds that are not necessarily allayed by data,” Dr. Ofri added.
The coronavirus and its misinformation is also a topic that has not escaped Mikhail Varshavski, better known as Dr. Mike on his YouTube channel.
In a video posted Wednesday and recorded Tuesday, Dr. Mike urged his views to be “Alert, not anxious.”
Dr. Mike also touched on a topic that has made a considerable amount of headlines: the 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in China.
Like the virus that originated in Wuhan, China, SARS is a coronavirus; however, the two have a noticeable difference. SARS is generally only known to be contagious while those who are infected are displaying symptoms.
On Sunday, China’s National Health Commission said the Wuhan virus can spread during its incubation phase, which is the period where one is infected but might not know it because they aren’t showing any symptoms. According to those officials, that incubation period can last up to two weeks.
Such is the fact omitted from most headlines and the body of many articles published Wednesday as the Wuhan virus outpaced the SARS outbreak, which lasted from Nov. 2002 to Aug. 2003 and infected nearly 8,100 people. By comparison, the Wuhan virus was first detected on Dec. 31 and had infected more than 8,200 within a month.
“There’s been many headlines in that are trying to scare you into panicking because it urges you to click,” Dr. Mike said in his video, “and when you click, they earn money. Do not fall for this.”
Likewise, with the large influx of salacious headlines, as well as reports of xenophobia against Asian people in countries, many have begun to wonder just how deadly the virus is.
“Now you may be wondering to yourself, is this a dangerous virus?” Dr. Mike asks. “Well, the answer is, it depends. It can become severe in about 20% of cases, leading to pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome, leading to ventilation or even death in some circumstances.”
For those of you who are living in the U.S., this is certainly a potential threat we should be on the lookout for. With all the international travel that goes on in the world today, it’s very easy to spread a virus from one country to another. That being said, with only five cases in the U.S., with zero deaths thus far, this is not a crisis and not a reason to panic.”
Cruise Ship Quarantined
Among growing fears, reports also surfaced of a cruise ship in Italy that is holding its passengers from leaving the ship as it investigates a potential coronavirus case onboard.
On Wednesday, one Chinese woman on the ship came down with a fever. Reportedly, she’s also experiencing respiratory problems, both of which are symptoms of this coronavirus.
When the ship docked Thursday morning, the ship’s 6,000 passengers and 1,000 crew members were told they couldn’t leave to enter the city of Civitavecchia.
Meanwhile, that woman and her husband—who isn’t showing symptoms of the virus— were both placed in isolation.
“The guest, a 54-year-old lady of Chinese nationality, is currently put on isolation on the onboard hospital since last night together with her travel mate, in line with health protocols,” the cruise line, Costa Cruises, said in a statement. “As soon as the suspected case was detected, the medical team on board immediately activated all the relevant health procedures to promptly isolate and manage the clinical condition.“
As medical staff worked to understand the woman’s symptoms, many of the ship’s passengers waited on decks and in hallways with their luggage on hand, awaiting any announcement.
Intanto a Civitavecchia siamo bloccati in nave Costa senza sapere il motivo ( ufficialmente).. pic.twitter.com/dijqwKaQxj— Filippo🇮🇹 (@Filippo64416163) January 30, 2020
According to the Telegraph, if the woman were found to have the virus, everyone onboard could be quarantined for up to two weeks.
However, Thursday afternoon, the Italian health ministry confirmed that woman nor her husband had the virus.
New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns
- The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
- The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
- The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.
CDC Issues Warning
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus.
The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.
Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.
Mitigating Spread of Variant
“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”
The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.
“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.
“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)
Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)
- Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
- By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
- Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
Rick Snyder Charges
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.
The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.
He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.
The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.
Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.
His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.
8 Others Charged
Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.
Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:
- Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
- Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
- Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
- Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
- Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
- Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.
Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.
At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)
Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack
- At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
- Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
- Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive
At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus.
On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one.
Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested.
More Cases Follow
Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions.
“Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote.
“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added.
“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown.
“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.
Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks.
Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.