What’s Up with COVID-19?: Here’s the Scoop

By Lorin Jackson and Frankie Snow

From PHN Issue 42, Spring 2020

As of April 30:

  • There are more than 3.25 million cases confirmed worldwide, with roughly a million incidents of recovery from the disease, and almost a quarter million have died.
  • In the United States, there are about a million cases, with almost 130,000 recovered and more than 60,000 deaths.
  • The United States has more recorded deaths than any other country. One possible reason is that there is not a coordinated national or regional effort to test people and track cases to contain outbreaks.
  • Congregate settings, such as nursing homes, detention centers, prisons/jails, and homeless shelters are extremely vulnerable to massive outbreaks of COVID-19 and account for some of the spikes in cases. This is because it is difficult to properly quarantine and maintain physical distancing in these settings.
  • As of mid-April 2020 in New York City, the NYC Department of Correction said that 369 inmates tested positive out of more than 3,900 in custody at Rikers Island and smaller facilities.
  • As of April 29, more than 70% of people incarcerated in federal prisons who have been tested for COVID-19 had the virus.
  • Chicago’s Cook County Jail is one of the largest and most impacted jails. More than 800 people had tested positive by April 28, and it had one of the highest infection rates in the country. In April, activists held a two-day emergency bailout where more than 130 people were able to leave the jail.

Lifestyle Changes

  • The COVID-19 pandemic continues to halt economic and social activity on the outside. A pandemic is an outbreak of a disease that spreads across multiple countries or continents.
  • Most states have shelter-in-place ordinances happening, as well as curfews that mandate people stay at home unless absolutely necessary (like grocery shopping or picking up meds).
  • If folks do leave the house, they are to wear masks covering their nose and mouth—surgical face masks, bandanas, or scarves, for example. Many people are sewing or crafting their own face masks because companies that supply masks are out of stock and cannot create masks fast enough to supply the demand.
  • K-12 schools and colleges are closed for the rest of the school year in many states. Some schools anticipate that next fall or even into next winter, they will be holding classes online.
  • To reduce the risk of getting sick by going out in public places, lots of people are ordering essential items online. Delivery services (groceries, packages, etc.) are overwhelmed and often struggling to meet demand. Only essential businesses are allowed to be open and operate right now. These include grocery stores, some restaurants that deliver food, pharmacies, gas stations, laundromats, medical facilities, the post office, and hardware stores. If you do go out, the expectation is that you will wear a mask, practice good hygiene, and practice social distancing. Social distancing is the practice of leaving at least 6 feet between yourself and every person around you. Most stores and businesses are enforcing social distancing by limiting the number of people who can go in at a time.
  • Shelter-in-place orders and recommendations to stay at home are in an effort to “Flatten the Curve.” The goal of this public health strategy is to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent a rapid spike in cases that will exceed the healthcare system’s capacity to care for patients. There have been more cases in New York City than any other city in the United States. The situation in New York City is grim; hospital systems have limited resources to care for everyone who is sick.
  • COVID-19 disproportionately affects Black and Latinx communities, in both infection and death rates. The disparity is attributed to income inequality, inequities in healthcare access and disease prevention, and higher rates of infection in cities.
  • In one month, 22 million people filed for unemployment because of layoffs and business failures. The unemployment rate in late April was estimated to be between 13% and 20%, though many underemployed people may not be captured in the data. The last time unemployment rates were this high was during the Great Depression.
  • Over 31% of people in the U.S. could not pay rent in April, and rent strikes are being organized across the country.

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