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home : opinion : opinion July 14, 2020

4/16/2020 10:46:00 AM
COVID-19: Opinion & A History Lesson

Wayne Howard
Staff Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic continues.  Despite some progress in cutting back on the number of new infections and deaths, there are still more new cases every day--around the world, across the country, and here in North Carolina.  When--if ever--will we get back to normal?

The Lincoln & Gaston County Commissioners have asked North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper to turn control over to the counties for making decisions related to fighting the COVID-19 virus.  A group calling itself Reopen NC held a protest rally in Raleigh on Tuesday.  Similar groups have held similar events in other states.  

There is no doubt that the closing of many businesses related to the virus has already had tremendous negative effect on the economy, and the longer the businesses are closed, the worse that effect will be.

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There were already other factors that pointed to a likely worldwide economic decline in late 2020 and 2021.  The virus triggered a decline much quicker and has already made it much worse.  The effects of the virus on the world economy aren't yet being fully felt.  It will get much worse before it gets better.

Throwing money at it may help--some.  Obama did that in 2009, bailing out banks and the auto industry.  I never got one, but some got a stimulus check then, too.  The PPP program of the SBA may save some small businesses--but even if they were to reopen right now, some, especially restaurants, won't survive.  That program also ran out of money this week and needs another infusion of another $390 million.  From the beginning, I believed Congress may have made a mistake in sending out those $1200 checks to everyone and adding an extra $600 to unemployment checks.  The PPP program offered money to businesses based largely on them continuing to employ their workers--even if they weren't working.  The advantage of that is that the business might be able to survive, and if it did, it would not lose all its employees while it was closed.  The flow of money in the usual way--wages--made sense.  I never thought it made sense to give an extra $600 to those who were unemployed but not to those who were still working.  If Washington wanted to help, supporting businesses and having them pay their employees made better sense.  I fear that those $1200 checks will be used very much like most tax refund checks--spent quickly and then gone...and we've got a lot more hard times ahead.

We are told that the COVID-19 virus is here to stay.  No matter what we do, we're not likely to get rid of it.  Hopefully, time will see improved treatment as research is done.  The first known case of this disease didn't happen until November of last year; the first death from it was only three months ago.  There simply hasn't been enough time for research into treatment or to develop a vaccine.

I believe if we are ever to return to normal--not that thing some have talked about as 'the new normal'--we are going to have to develop a vaccine.  Most forms of flu aren't as contagious as this virus appears to be; but unchecked, they could be even more deadly.  We have flu vaccines; I get my flu shot every year.  Pneumonia cases have actually declined, thanks in large part to a vaccine.  I remember when every summer brought the dread of polio.  I was one of the first group who got the Salk vaccine in 1952.  I later got the Sabin vaccine on a sugar cube.  The dread disease was conquered.

I am a big fan of PBS.  I watch "Amanpour & Company" every week, and I was pleasantly surprised earlier this week when I saw an interview on that program with a doctor who believes that the polio vaccine MAY provide some temporary immunity to COVID-19.  Now, I'm a stickler for a couple of things--don't trust anything you read without investigating further; and know the source.  In this case, the source appears to be very good--Christiane Amanpour is a very skilled and competent journalist and Dr. Robert Gallo is one of those involved in discovering the relationship between HIV and AIDS back in the 1980s.  CLICK HERE to watch the interview on YouTube.  It may start several minutes into the interview; don't watch it from there, go back to the beginning--the opening notes that the promise of the vaccine is a possible temporary, not long-term, option.  

For now, I don't agree with the Commissioners.  For one thing, this isn't a LOCAL problem, and it doesn't deserve a localized solution.  People travel from county to county.  

I do believe that some changes might be possible come May 1st.  I need a haircut, and Rex's barbershop being closed is tough on him and his family, even if they do get a so-called stimulus check or he gets a PPP loan and doesn't have to repay it.  I miss eating at Court Street Grille, and even if I can get food to go, I want to be able to socialize again.  I miss church.  Most people are anxious to get back to their normal activities.

Governor Cooper said sporting events might have to be held without an in-person audience.  Sorry, but that just isn't satisfactory.  

The vaccine is the only real answer.  

I hope the research that is being done on the polio vaccine shows that it works.  

Until we have a vaccine, we must progress slowly as we attempt to end the current stay at home situation.  I have said before related to other events, 'you don't start remodeling until you put out the fire.'  We have the equivalent of a fire is better controlled now that it was a month ago, but it's still burning.  Ending the restrictions too quickly could create a second wave that might be worse than the first.  We need to be cautious so that doesn't happen.

Just how serious is this virus?  It might help to realize just how quickly it developed from a new disease in China to a worldwide epidemic. 


November 20, 2019 The first case of a mysterious flu-like illness is reported in Wuhan, China.

December 30, 2019 Li Wenliang, a Chinese ophthalmologist who works as a physician at Wuhan Central Hospital, warns about a possible outbreak of an illness that resembles severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

December 31, 2019 Chinese Health officials inform the WHO about a group of 41 patients with a mysterious pneumonia. Most are connected to Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. This is the first report of the disease to the WHO.

January 1, 2020 Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market closes.

January 3, 2020 Li Wenliang is summoned and admonished by Wuhan police for "making false comments on the Internet". Li returned to work, later contracted the COVID-19 virus from an infected patient (who had been originally treated for glaucoma).

January 7, 2020 Chinese authorities identify a new type of coronavirus (called novel coronavirus or nCoV).

January 8, 2020 The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues an official Health Advisory and a level 1 travel notice ("practice usual precautions") in response to the virus.

January 9, 2020 China records its first death. It is reported two days later.

January 13, 2020 First coronavirus case outside of China is reported in Thailand.

January 17, 2020 CDC and Dept. of Homeland Security begin screening to detect travelers who are ill coming to the US from Wuhan at airports in San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX) and New York (JFK).

January 20, 2020 First US case is reported: a 35-year-old man in Snohomish County, Washington, returns to the US from Wuhan.

January 22, 2020 CDC adds two more airports—Chicago O'Hare (ORD) and Atlanta (ATL) to the coronavirus screening but only of passengers coming from Wuhan.

January 23, 2020 Wuhan is placed under quarantine, Hubei province follows within days. Transportation in and out of Wuhan is halted; residents are quarantined in their homes.

January 30, 2020 WHO declares a global public-health emergency.

January 31, 2020 President Trump bans foreign nationals from entering the US if they were in China within the prior two weeks. US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar declares a public health emergency in response to COVID-19.

February 2, 2020 First death outside China is recorded in the Philippines. State Dept. issues a travel advisory advising Americans not to travel to China.

February 7, 2020 Chinese whistleblower Li Wenliang dies. He was 33.

February 8, 2020 US citizen dies in Wuhan – first death of an American citizen.

February 9, 2020 Death toll in China surpasses that of the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic, with 811 deaths recorded.

February 11, 2020 WHO announces that the new coronavirus disease will be called "COVID-19." COVID-19 is short for coronavirus disease 2019. This is the first time the disease is called by the name COVID-19.

February 12, 2020 Coronavirus cases start to spike in South Korea. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) closes at an all-time high of 29,551.42.

February 19, 2020 Iran outbreak begins.

February 21, 2020 Italy outbreak begins.

February 28, 2020 US stock market has worst week since the 2008 recession, DJIA closes at 25,766.64--plunging 4% in one day.

February 29, 2020 US reports first death on American soil. The CDC reports three COVID-19 cases in Washington state, two of the patients are from a long-term care facility where one is a health care worker. Other residents and staff of the facility have not yet been tested for COVID-19 but are reportedly either ill with respiratory symptoms or hospitalized with pneumonia of unknown cause. The patient who died, a male in his 50s, was being treated at the same hospital. Gov. Jay Inslee declares State of Emergency for Washington.

March 3, 2020 Coronavirus cases begin to sharply increase in Spain, marking the start of its outbreak. North Carolina reports first person in NC (Wake County) has tested positive for COVID-19.

March 8, 2020 Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte places all 60 million residents on lockdown.

March 10, 2020 Lincolnton & Lincoln County officials meet to plan for COVID-19 outbreak possibility, no cases yet reported in any NC county except Wake, which has six cases.

March 11, 2020 WHO declares the outbreak a pandemic. President Trump bans all travel from 26 European countries.

March 12, 2020 NCHSAA shuts down Spring sports until at least April 6th.

March 13, 2020 A US national emergency is declared over the novel coronavirus outbreak. President Trump declares a National Emergency, suspends admission of foreign nationals who have been to China, Iran or certain European countries in the previous two weeks.

March 14, 2020 NC Governor Roy Cooper orders schools closed for two weeks.

March 16, 2020 President Trump announces guidelines including limiting gatherings to fewer than 10 people, avoiding discretionary travel, and avoiding eating and drinking at bars, restaurants, and public food courts until March 30th.

March 17, 2020 A leaked federal plan warns the new coronavirus pandemic "will last 18 months or longer" and may come in "multiple waves" of infections; Lincoln County reports its first COVID-19 case. 

March 19, 2020 China reports no new locally spread infections for the first time since the pandemic began. California Governor Gavin Newsom issues a stay at home order for his state. President Trump says he’d like to have the country “opened up and just raring to go by Easter.”

March 20, 2020 IRS extends deadline for filing 2019 tax returns to July 15th. The governors of Illinois and New York announce executive orders requiring residents to stay in their homes to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Stay at home orders now apply to over 20% of the US population.

March 23, 2020 New York City confirms 21,000 cases, making it the biggest epicenter of the outbreak in the US. NC Gov. Cooper extends school closures statewide to May 15, 2020. The new executive order also closes some businesses (barber shops, hair salons, nail salons, gyms) effective March 25, 2020 and limits visitors to long-term care centers; Cooper stops short of a stay at home edict. NCHSAA suspends Spring sports until at least May 18th. Stock market hits bottom for the year to date, DJIA closes at 18,591.93.

March 24, 2020 NC Hospital Association, representing all 150 hospitals in the state, asks Cooper to declare a stay at home order. NC reports first death from COVID-19 (Cabarrus County).

March 25, 2020 NC Governor Roy Cooper issues a stay at home order effective Monday March 30th at 5 PM.  

March 26, 2020 Total confirmed cases in the US reach 82,404 — the highest in the world — surpassing China's 81,782 and Italy's 80,589. North Carolina is declared a federal disaster area, state has over 700 COVID-19 cases.

March 27, 2020 President Trump signs bill enacting $2.3 trillion economic stimulus; plan provides direct payments to taxpayers, increased jobless benefits and a $500 billion fund to assist distressed businesses.

March 28, 2020 NCDHHS reports the state has gone from zero to over 1,000 cases in just 25 days.

March 31, 2020 More than 1/3 of humanity is under some form of lockdown.

April 2, 2020 The world passes 1 million COVID-19 infections. North Carolina's count of cases increases to over 2,000 with 18 deaths, Gaston County reports its first death from COVID-19. Unemployment insurance claims in the US top 6.6 million, biggest weekly number in history.

April 3, 2020 Catawba County reports its first COVID-19 death. CDC reverses previous advice and says people should wear protective cloth face masks when in public places.

April 6, 2020 A four-year-old tiger at the Bronx Zoo in NYC becomes the first known case of an animal becoming sick with COVID-19. Following the report, a study indicates the coronavirus can infect and replicate in domestic cats and ferrets, but replicates poorly in dogs, pigs, chickens and ducks. Based on DNA evidence (similarities in DNA), the virus is thought to have originated in bats, although it is not known if the virus crossed over into other animals before it first spread to humans. Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is announced by the SBA as a measure to help small businesses survive. Loans used for certain purposes do not have to be repaid. Up to 75% of the loan if used for paying employees is forgiven. Other 25% can be forgiven if used to pay mortgage interest, utilities and certain other business expenses.

April 7, 2020 US reports the highest single-day death toll for any country: more than 1,900. Roughly 95% of all Americans are under lockdown, as 42 states issue stay-at-home orders.

April 9, 2020 Gaston County Commission Chairman Tracy Philbeck sends letter to Gov. Cooper asking him to return decisions on COVID-19 restrictions, etc. to the counties.

April 10, 2020 The global death toll surpasses 100,000. Globally, authorities report roughly 1.67 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 1.2 million being active and ongoing cases, roughly 370,000 recoveries, and 101,700 deaths.

April 14, 2020 Cleveland County reports its first death from COVID-19. Lincoln County Commissioners send letter to Gov. Cooper asking him to give control over decisions about restrictions, etc. to county. North Carolina death toll from COVID-19 surpasses 100.

April 15, 2020 President Trump says US will stop funding WHO.

April 16, 2020  The worldwide death toll approaches 143,000; US death toll exceeds 33,000, North Carolina death toll is 131.

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