The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States has increased exponentially over the last several weeks, resulting in the mandatory closure of all public spaces, restaurants, nightclubs, offices, schools and anywhere else where groups of people might gather.
Health officials and governments have asked Americans to stay home and practice social distancing. For this reason, many of us are sitting at home with nothing to do but read the continuous stream of news releases giving COVID-19 updates, usually telling us how many new cases have been reported in the last twenty-four hours.
This unavoidable onslaught of negative news has left many Americans feeling sad, desperate, and scared. While it may seem like there is no hope to be found anywhere, there has been some positive news that has made headlines. Here are 10 positive updates.
1. The First COVID-19 Vaccine has been Administered
On March 16, researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle gave the first shot of a potential vaccine to a healthy person as a part of a first-stage study to find a vaccine for the virus .
The test will ultimately give 45 participants two doses of the vaccine, one month apart. This test is the start of a series of studies in people that are needed to prove whether or not the shots are safe and effective.
The vaccine is being called mRNA-1273, and anyone who is injected with it cannot become infected, because the shots don’t actually contain the virus itself.
The speed with which this vaccine has been developed has been remarkable. Study leader Dr. Lisa Jackson explains that going from not knowing the virus existed to having a potential vaccine in only two months is unprecedented.
Scientists will be monitoring the participants for side effects, as well as certain markers that will show if the vaccine is working.
“We don’t know whether this vaccine will induce an immune response, or whether it will be safe. That’s why we’re doing a trial,” Jackson stressed. “It’s not at the stage where it would be possible or prudent to give it to the general population.”
The idea behind the vaccine is that the body will become like a mini-factory, producing some harmless spike protein. When the immune system finds the foreign protein, it will make antibodies to attack, which will prepare it should it come in contact with the real virus later on.
One of the study’s participants is a 43-year-old mother of two, who left the trial and reported that she was “feeling great” .
2. Distilleries are Making Hand Sanitizer
As panic-buying and price-gouging have led to nation-wide shortages of hand sanitizer, distilleries all across the country have begun making their own hand sanitizer and handing it out for free.
Many of these distilleries have stated that they will continue to make sanitizer until the threat of the virus has passed .
3. Air Pollution is Dropping
NASA has released images over China showing that the amount of air pollution over the country has all but vanished. Some reports have estimated more than one hundred million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions have been saved from entering the atmosphere, which is the equivalent of what China produces in a year .
Similar effects have been reported in Italy, and locals have been posting images of the canals in Venice that are running clear as a result of the decrease in traffic on the waterways.
4. Antibodies from Recovered Patients Could Help Protect People at Risk
Researchers at John Hopkins University are hoping to slow the spread of the virus using a blood-derived technique that has been used in the medical world for centuries.
The technique uses blood plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 to boost the immunity of patients who have been infected with the virus, as well as people who are at greater risk of contracting it.
“Deployment of this option requires no research or development,” says Arturo Casadevall, Professor of molecular microbiology and immunology and infectious diseases. “It could be deployed within a couple of weeks since it relies on standard blood-banking practices.”
Experts around the country are rushing to implement the treatment, which is not meant to be a cure-all for the disease, but simply a temporary measure until stronger options, such as a vaccine, are available .
5. South Korean Outbreak Finally on the Decline
On March 6, South Korea recorded more recovered COVID-19 patients than new infections for the first time since the first case was confirmed on January 20. According to the chief of the Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), this trend is expected to continue.
Both the country’s prime minister, Chung Sye-kyun, as well as the mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, are optimistic about this trend, but are warning everyone to be cautious and remain vigilant.
“We assess that we’ve put out a big fire, but cannot lower our guard yet,” said Won-soon .
6. China Closes Temporary Hospitals and Reopens Parks
Parks and tourist attractions are starting to reopen and travel restrictions across the country are starting to be loosened, even in Hubei, the province hit the hardest by the epidemic.
On March 13, authorities in mainland China reported only 11 new cases, seven of which were imported cases from Italy, the U.S., and Saudi Arabia.
At all attractions, visitors are required to make a reservation online, undergo a temperature check upon arrival, and spend no more than two hours at their chosen venue. Outdoor sporting venues have been reopened, but indoor facilities have remained closed .
7. Researchers Around the World are Testing New Treatments
Scientists at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research have found two medications that are both available in Australia that completely destroyed traces of the novel coronavirus in test tubes.
Professor David Paterson told Australian news outlets that they have already given the drug to two patients who tested positive for COVID-19, that have resulted in a complete disappearance of the virus recovery from the infection.
Researchers now want to conduct a large clinical trial across the entire country comparing one drug, versus another, versus a combination of the two. They already have a good understanding of the drugs, which have a history of being well-tolerated.
“We’re not on a flat foot, we can sort of move ahead very rapidly with enrolling Australians in this trial,” Prof Paterson said .
A team of Canadian researchers from Sunnybrook, McMaster University, and the University of Toronto, have isolated the agent responsible for the ongoing outbreak, which will help researchers across the world develop better diagnostic testing, treatments, and vaccines .
8. UberEats has Waved Delivery Fees
In an effort to help restaurants across the country, UberEats is waiving the delivery fee for all independent restaurants. The company said in a statement:
“We know the success of every restaurant depends on customer demand. That’s why we’re working urgently to drive orders towards independent restaurants on Eats, to help make up for the significant slowdown of in-restaurant dining.”
The company has waived the fee for more than one hundred thousand independent restaurants across the United States and Canada and has launched dedicated marketing campaigns to promote delivery from local restaurants .
People Helping People
Amidst all the negative news surrounding the pandemic, there have been many stories of human kindness. All dollar General stores have dedicated the first hour that they open every day to elderly customers in an effort to help the most vulnerable portion of our population from getting sick .
Professional athletes and sports teams from across the country have pledged to pay the wages of arena staff who are unable to work due to closures and social isolation, and utilities companies, landlords, and automakers are forgiving their usual late fees and payments to ease the financial burden many are feeling because of the shutdown [12,2].
In times of crisis, it is easy to become overwhelmed and scared and to lash out against each other, but it is during these times that it is more important than ever for humanity to come together and support one another. Only through coordinated global action, along with cooperation from entire populations, will we see this pandemic come to an end.
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