Daily Coronavirus Briefing: Congress Passes Massive Financial Rescue Bill, Spain Reaches Grim Milestone

Pink Eye Could Be a Symptom of COVID-19

By Staff, AccuWeather

AccuWeather-(ENEWSPF)- The new coronavirus, and COVID-19, the disease it causes, surfaced in late 2019, and by mid-March had become a full-blown crisis worldwide. The global death toll climbed above 6,000 by March 15, just a few days after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in the United States. By the final week of March, global confirmed cases surpassed 400,000, the death toll neared 20,000 and cases were reported in at least 190 countries and regions.  

As testing has increased, the crisis escalated with health officials around the world reporting more than 21,000 new cases on March 19 alone. With cases spreading, and the epicenter of the outbreak shifting to Europe, life in the Western world has been upended the way it had been in Asia earlier in the developing crisis.

On March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemicThis is the first pandemic in 11 years, according to the CDC.

The number of cases of COVID-19 outside of China exploded 13-fold over a two-week period covering late February into early March, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals. We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.”

After weeks of spreading through the United States, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surpassed 50,000 and at least 750 deaths were blamed on the virus.

Weather and its potential impact on how COVID-19 behaves have remained a consistent focus since the outbreak erupted and experts are divided over what impact, if any, warmer weather will have on the spread of the outbreak.

Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has said that warm weather will “probably not” slow down the spread, at least not significantly.

And Michael Osterholm, the director of Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) echoed that sentiment and cautioned that the world is only in the beginning stages of the outbreak. “This is a coronavirus winter,” he cautioned, saying he expects the outbreak to go on for six months or more. Both Lipsitch’s and Osterholm’s positions came in March and stand in opposition to some previous analysis.

In early February, Hong Kong University pathology professor John Nicholls said he expected the virus to “burn itself out” by around May because of increased sunlight, higher temperatures and more humidity, according to a leaked transcript of a private conference call in early February.

In mid-March, Nicholls told AccuWeather that new research of a lab-grown copy of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness, shows “In cold environments, there is longer virus survival than warm ones.” He also warned that “human factors” associated with the virus “are more unpredictable.”

The CDC has cautioned that not enough is known about the virus to say for sure that weather will affect the spread, but a spokesperson said, “I’m happy to hope that it [the threat] goes down as the weather warms up.”

As experts work toward a better understanding, the world shudders in fear of the unknown, a worry that has rocked global financial markets, leading to daily volatility in the U.S. stock markets.

Here are the latest updates, listed in eastern time, and the most important things you need to know about coronavirus.

March 25, 11:50 a.m.

Pink eye could be a symptom of COVID-19The American Academy of Opthalmology (AAO) warned eye doctors this week that patients who have pink eye, or conjunctivitis, along with a fever and respiratory symptoms could represent cases of COVID-19. The AAO also suggested the possibility that the virus can be transmitted through aerosol contact with the conjunctiva.

March 25, 10:37 a.m.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke used a weather analogy to describe the United States’ current economic situation. Bernanke told CNBC Wednesday morning that he expects a “very sharp” recession but if there isn’t too much damage done to the workforce then the country could see a “fairly quick rebound.”   

“This is a very different animal from the Great Depression” which he told CNBC “came from human problems, monetary and financial shocks. This is has some of the same feel, some of the feel of panic, some of the feel of volatility that you’re talking about. It’s much closer to a major snowstorm or a natural disaster than a classic 1930s-style depression.”

March 25, 10:16 a.m.

Anyone who recently left the New York City area is being asked to self quarantine for at least 14 days, according to Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of White House’s coronavirus task force. Birx cited the rapid increase in the number of cases in the city as a the primary reason. “We remain deeply concerned about New York City and the New York metro area,” Birx said, adding that about 60 percent of all new cases in the U.S. are coming out of the metro area. More than 15,500 cases have been confirmed in the city alone.  

March 25, 9:10 a.m.

Prince Charles, the 71-year-old heir to the British throne, tested positive for coronavirus, as confirmed by a statement from the Royal Family on Wednesday morning. The Prince of Wales is the son of Queen Elizabeth II, who has tested negative for the virus. Charles’ wife Camilla also tested negative and the couple is self-isolating at their home.

March 25, 7:36 a.m.

The White House and Congress reached agreement on a historic $2 trillion relief package to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that the Senate would pass the legislation on Wednesday. “At last, we have a deal,” McConnell said.

The relief package is the largest in U.S. history and is vital to combating the economic downturn the country has experienced since the onslaught of the pandemic. The bill brings financial aid directly to Americans, expands unemployment benefits and includes a $367 billion program to help small businesses, the Associated Press reported. “It is not a moment of celebration but one of necessity,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democatic leader from New York, said. “We fought to send much-needed resources to fight coronavirus and to put people and workers first.”

March 25, 6:44 a.m.

On Wednesday, Spain’s Health Ministry announced another spike in fatalities for the battered country, pushing the total to 3,434. That total surpasses China for second most COVID-19 deaths in the world, trailing only Italy.

Here are the latest updated worldwide numbers compiled by researchers from Johns Hopkins University:

  • Total confirmed cases: 428,405
  • Total deaths: 19,120
  • Total recoveries: 109,926
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