SARS-CoV-2, a Pandemic: Part 5, Numbers

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Justin Kipness is a senior planning to study biology at Brown University in the fall. Each week, he will trace the Coronavirus pandemic from its origin in Wuhan, China all the way to Stamford, CT. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 to learn how we got here.

WHO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland (46.2 N, 6.1 E) 

In the mid-20th century, the United Nations (UN) planned to create an international body to oversee global health. This vision was set into place in 1948 when the World Health Organization (WHO) was established. The WHO has been involved in handling many of the world’s deadliest diseases, among them: Ebola, Plague, SARS, and MERS. Today, the WHO is involved in handling this new pandemic – caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the specific type of coronavirus spreading across the world. 

Everyday since January 21, the WHO has been releasing situation reports, lists including the number of people infected or deceased in each impacted nation. Although numbers do not tell the entire story of an emerging disease, (lack of testing and asymptomatic carriers result in a lower number of reported cases) they do indicate patterns and places on earth that have gotten hit hard with COVID-19. 

Situation Report 10 – January 30, 2020 – Confirmed Cases 

Total – 7,818 

China – 7,736

Japan – 11

Singapore – 10

Republic of Korea – 4

Iran – 0

Italy – 0

U.K. – 0

U.S.A – 5

*****Abbreviated with select countries*****

WHO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland (46.2 N, 6.1 E) 

Important news had just emanated from Switzerland. The WHO recognized the coronavirus outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, or PHEIC. According to the WHO’s International Health Regulations, a PHEIC is “an extraordinary event” characterized by a disease outbreak that must “constitute a public health risk to other States.” Essentially, the viral particles must be able to hitch rides across the globe, enter lung cells through the ACE2 receptors and replicate and spread in countries ranging from Japan to France to the United States (the viruses do not mean to hitch rides and travel the world; they simply spread because of random interaction with the people and other animals in their ecosystem). The second criteria for the disease is that it “is serious, unusual or unexpected; carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border; and may require immediate international action.” The random shuffling of genes, possibly in a bat cave in southwestern china (see part 2), created a virus capable of doing just that. 

White House, Washington D.C., U.S.A. (38.9 N, -77.0 E)

Washington acted a day later by issuing the Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus. This proclamation, which became effective February 2, banned “the entry into the United States… of all aliens who were physically present within the People’s Republic of China…” The ban excluded a few regions like Hong Kong and Macau, according to the White House, which had 10 and 7 confirmed cases, respectively, on January 30. The ban eliminated some routes for the spread of the coronavirus, but as time would tell, did not fill all the gaps. 

Westhill High School, Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.A. (41.1 N, -73.5 E)

It was a chilly Thursday, students talked about the coronavirus with general curiosity and interest in stories from a foriegn land. There was no personal fear circularing the halls of Westhill – yet. 

Situation Report 26 February 15, 2020 – Confirmed Cases 

Total – 50,580

China – 50,054

Japan – 41

Singapore – 67

Republic of Korea – 28

Iran – 0

Italy – 3

U.K. – 9

U.S.A – 15

Egypt – 1

*****Abbreviated with select countries*****

The Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population, Cairo, Egypt (30.0 N, 31.2 E)

The “red dot” signaling a case of coronavirus appeared on a new digitized landmass on the computer screen of a disease tracking program: the first confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2 on the African continent. This meant that the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population reported that someone tested positive for the virus. When looking through the information, it is important to understand what the first confirmed case means. The first confirmed case signals that a disease has spread to a new place but does not necessarily indicate they were the first carrier in the nation. This reveals a problem, not only in Egypt but in many nations across the globe – undetected carriers spreading the virus. According to science journal Nature, “the possibility of unreported cases is particularly concerning in countries with weaker health-care systems, such as those in southeast Asia and Africa, which could quickly be overwhelmed by a local outbreak, experts say.” If cases are able to go under the radar in countries across the globe, then disease can spread unnoticed and help seed a pandemic and wreak havoc in some of the most vulnerable places on earth as well as some of the most technologically developed. 

Westhill High School, Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.A. (41.1 N, -73.5 E)

It was the second day of February break. Westhill students relaxed at home or maybe even went on a vacation, barely thinking twice about it at the time.

Situation Report 42 March 2, 2020 – Confirmed Cases 

Total – 88,948

China – 80,174

Japan – 254

Singapore – 106

Republic of Korea – 4,212

Iran – 978

Italy – 1,689

U.K. – 36

U.S.A – 62

Egypt – 2

*****Abbreviated with select countries*****

WHO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland (46.2 N, 6.1 E) 

It had been a few days since the February 29 press briefing from the WHO. The coronavirus’s global alert raised from “high” to “very high,” according to Nature. It was not an official pandemic, but it seemed close. 

New York State Capitol Building, Albany, New York, U.S.A. (42.7 N, -73.8 E)

On March 1, Governor Andrew Cuomo reported the state’s first coronavirus case. Cuomo tweeted, “We have learned of the 1st positive case of COVID-19 in NY. The patient contracted the virus while in Iran & is isolated.” It was only a matter of time until a positive case was reported in one of the largest international hubs on earth. 

Westhill High School, Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.A. (41.1 N, -73.5 E)

It was only a 55 minute train ride from Grand Central Station. It was Monday and a B day at Westhill. Students arrived around 7:00 am for first period to attend packed classes, often with over twenty students with desks close together. At 2:05, the dismissal bell rang and students crowded the hallways, backpacks bumping into shoulders. Some students piled into buses and were taken home. 

Situation Report 51 March 11, 2020 – Confirmed Cases 

Total – 118,319 

China – 80,955 

Japan – 568

Singapore – 166

Republic of Korea – 7,755

Iran – 8,042

Italy – 10,149

U.K. – 373

U.S.A – 696

*****Abbreviated with select countries*****

WHO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland (46.2 N, 6.1 E) 

On March 11, the WHO classified the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic, according to Nature.

White House, Washington D.C., U.S.A. (38.9 N, -77.0 E)

The White House issued the European Travel Ban. With some exceptions, this restriction banned non-U.S. citizens from entering the country if they had been in the Schengen Area (most of the European Union (EU) countries plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) in the “14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.” The UK is not part of the EU or the Schengen Area, so travel from Great Britain was not restricted by the March 11 travel ban. 

Qom, Iran (34.6 N, 50.9 E)

In an interview with Time, a laboratory scientist working in Iran’s public hospitals said that during “the first week the doctors and nurses only used regular masks—no gloves, no gowns, nothing else.” In another Time interview a laboratory assistant said, “People are dying left and right here. That’s the case in all of our hospitals in Qom.” According to Time, medical staff in Tehran said the number of infected people with coronavirus was much higher than the reported number. 

Westhill High School, Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.A. (41.1 N, -73.5 E)

It was the middle of the week. The first class of the day here at Westhill was Period 2. The cloud of the idea of a virus infecting here was variable. Some students believed it was imminent. Others thought it impossible. 

“I knew it was going to Stamford; if New York got it then Stamford would get it,” Joshua Charleston (’20) said.

“Honestly, around mid-March, I knew it was going to be a widespread thing, but I did not think it would become so big and everything would be shut down.” Matthew Midy (‘20) said. 

Unfortunately, the future proved detrimental. 

New Rochelle, New York, U.S.A. (40.9 N, -73.8 E)

The National Guard was sent to New Rochelle, NY (less than 20 miles from Stamford) in order to help manage their coronavirus crisis, according to NY 1.  This moment could have been the turning point for many Westhill Students and Stamford residents – the moment when reality set in. 

Westhill High School, Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.A. (41.1 N, -73.5 E)

On March 12, students gathered in the halls and loaded onto crowded yellow buses. Students were told they would not return until March 27 at the earliest.

“I was under the impression that everything would clear up in two weeks and that we would be back in school after spring break,” Rachel Mensah (’20) said. 

Many thought this was an anomaly, that life would be back to normal soon.

Situation Report 53 March 13, 2020 – Confirmed Cases 

Total –  132,758 

China – 80,991

Japan – 675

Singapore – 187

Republic of Korea – 7,979

Iran – 10,075

Italy – 15,113

U.K. – 594

U.S.A – 1,264

*****Abbreviated with select countries*****

Milan, Italy (45.5 N, 9.2 E)

Hospital wards in Italy were crowded with coronavirus patients. In a New York Times article a doctor from Milan said, “The outbreak has put hospitals under a stress that has no precedents since the Second World War.” The sick have filled the hospital wards with patients – too many patients – leaving doctors with difficult decisions. 

White House, Washington D.C., U.S.A. (38.9 N, -77.0 E)

On March 13, with 1,264 cases reported in the United States, President Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, according to Nature

Situation Report 68 March 28, 2020 – Confirmed Cases 

Total – 571,659  

China – 82,213

Japan – 1,499

Singapore -732

Republic of Korea – 9,478

Iran – 32,332

Italy – 86,498

U.K. – 14,547

U.S.A – 85,228

*****Abbreviated with select countries*****

WHO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland (46.2 N, 6.1 E) 

The 68th situation report from the WHO revealed that the United States had surpassed China in number of reported confirmed cases on March 28.This original foreign problem had become an internal struggle. 

Westhill High School, Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.A. (41.1 N, -73.5 E)

Classwork had shifted online and Westhill students were getting used to a new normal. This pandemic really put into perspective the human’s place in the world – RNA trapped in a microscopic lipid coat changed the way we live our lives. 

Situation Report 92April 21, 2020 – Confirmed Cases 

Total –  2,397,216 

China – 84,250

Japan – 11,118

Singapore – 8,014

Republic of Korea – 10,683

Iran – 83,505

Italy – 181,228

U.K. – 124,747

U.S.A – 751,273

*****Abbreviated with select countries*****

New York State Capitol Building, Albany, New York, U.S.A. (42.7 N, -73.8 E)

New York has the highest number of coronavirus cases out of any state in the country and has become the center of this pandemic. To gauge the scale of the outbreak in New York, “8,098 individuals were infected and 774 died” globally after the course of the SARS virus, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  According to, on April 8 alone, 10,621 people tested positive for coronavirus and 799 people died from the virus in New York state. The scope of SARS-CoV-2 in numbers of infections and deaths was greater in a single state on a single day than the SARS virus was in its entirety. 

Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.A. (41.1 N, -73.5 E)

As of April 21, 2020, 2,067 cases have been confirmed and 87 deaths have been attributed to this new virus in Stamford, according to Governor Lamont stated that schools will be closed till at least May 20. 

This brings this series to the present. A present where most students reside permanently inside their homes. A present where the future seems blurry and the now is gloomy. A present where many of the activities in life, like getting food and socializing, are difficult. A present unlike others experienced by Westhill students and most other Stamford residents. This is life in a pandemic. 

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