The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was recorded on January 20, 2020. That means that as of today, we've been battling the virus for six full months.
While we've come a long way in that time, there's still plenty that we need to learn about the novel coronavirus. So to commemorate the half-year mark, we stepped back and took stock.
In this guide, we looked at the latest coronavirus-related research in an attempt to address the most pressing concerns that we're facing today, six months in. That includes the one question we've all been asking since before coronavirus was labeled a pandemic: When will this all be over?
How many people have had coronavirus?
At the time this article was published, there have been 3,761,362 recorded cases of COVID-19, and 140,157 deaths in the United States, according to the CDC. On June 20, the global death toll surpassed 600,000. Of course, by the time you're reading this, those numbers will likely have increased — though hopefully, not by much. According to NPR, the amount of new cases in 49 areas across the U.S. has been on the rise. But in states such as New York, New Jersey, and Delaware the overall rate of new cases is declining.
What do we know about the best ways to prevent coronavirus?
Stay home. Wear a face mask if you have to go out. Avoid crowds, and leave about six feet of space between yourself and others. It's the same advice we've been hearing for six months. But it's still critical, and six months in, experts understand more about why.
We know that the virus spreads from person to person mainly via respiratory droplets. These are produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and they can linger in the air for anywhere from a fraction of a second to minutes, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. If the droplets of an infected person come into contact with your mucus membranes, you may get sick. Wearing a mask helps trap your own droplets, protecting others; avoiding close contact with people helps you dodge the spray they might be producing, protecting you.
While it's not as likely to contract the virus from a shared surface, it's still possible. So definitely continue to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, avoid touching your face, and disinfect surfaces too.
Can kids get and transmit coronavirus?
Sadly, yes. Kids aren't necessarily at higher risk than adults — the CDC even states that, "Adults make up most of the coronavirus cases to date" — but they can contract the virus. In some areas of the U.S. and Europe, a small but increasing number of children have come down with something the CDC is calling multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). It appears to occur after they've recovered from coronavirus, Tara Greenhow, MD, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, previously told Refinery29. What's more, a recent report revealed that it's possible for babies to become infected with coronavirus in the womb, although those cases appear to be pretty rare.
Children can definitely spread the disease too. "Kids are the greatest vectors because they put their hands in their mouth and they touch each other and they spread it around from family to family," Shannon Sovndal, MD, an emergency medical services medical director in Boulder, Colorado and the author of Fragile, told Refinery29 for an earlier article. Children between the ages of 10 and 19 are more likely than younger kids or adults to infect others with the coronavirus, according to a new study out of South Korea — something to keep in mind as schools begin to plan reopening for the fall.
How is COVID-19 treated?
Most cases can be handled at home, with plenty of sleep and liquids, and over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen. People who suspect they have contracted COVID-19 should call a doctor for advice, and avoid heading to the hospital unless they're having trouble breathing.
For more severe cases, doctors are still trying to land on an effective and safe treatment protocol. Clinical trials for Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug remdesivir, which was developed to treat Ebola, seem promising. There are also trials being conducted for dexamethasone and famotidine, among other drugs. Last week, however, the World Health Organization announced that they were cutting short a trial involving hydroxychloroquine — the anti-malaria drug that Trump said he was taking every day, and which may increase the risk of death — due to other evidence indicating that it's ineffective.
What long-term effects does coronavirus have on overall health?
That's still unclear. Some people appear to bounce back from the illness relatively quickly, while others are reporting persistent symptoms. "We are learning something new every day," Christian Bime, MD, medical director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Banner – University Medical Center in Tucson, told Banner Health. "Our understanding of COVID-19’s long-term effects will depend greatly on ongoing studies over the next decades."
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-funded researchers are currently gathering information from coronavirus patients to conduct a study on the long-term effects of the virus.
When will we have a vaccine?
Possibly within the next 12 to 18 months, reports The Guardian. Currently, more than 140 candidate vaccines are being tracked by the World Health Organization. But there are a handful of standout options the world has been watching. A new COVID-19 vaccine out of the University of Oxford shows promise; people who received it produced immune cells that fight coronavirus, a just-released study says. That's promising, but the vaccine is still in its early stages of testing. A trial of Moderna, Inc.'s vaccine candidate, called mRNA-1273, has also yielded positive results; the company is on track to kick off a major, phase 3 study in 30,000 participants this month. And a team at Johnson and Johnson is fast-tracking their vaccine formulation, saying they hope to begin phase one and two trials this month as well.
When will coronavirus in the U.S. be over?
It's basically impossible to say. Many regions have tried to reopen, but some of these attempts have been followed by pretty significant spikes in cases. States such as Arizona, South Carolina, Texas, and Florida reopened too fast, causing a surge in cases, according to The New York Times. Areas such as New York City, which followed stricter, and more gradual reopening plans, didn't see the same increase. Still, officials are saying there may be a second wave of coronavirus come fall and winter, though they can't say for sure whether it will be more severe than what we're experiencing now.
In an interview with Heathline, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that for the pandemic to end, we will have to have control over the virus. "Unfortunately, we will have suffered a terrible burden, but it will end, and we will get back to normal, hopefully sooner rather than later," he said. We hope he's right.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.