Updated: Feb 11, 2021
By Daniella Arevalo '21
Medical masks, empty store shelves, homemade hand sanitizers, manufacturer-rationed cleaning supplies, and cheap flights are all things becoming more commonplace with the rise of the coronavirus, more specifically, COVID-19. COVID-19 is a novel (new) disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, a member of the large coronavirus family that includes illnesses such as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. As a respiratory disease, its symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, usually appearing 2-14 days after exposure.
COVID-19 is thought to have originated from a seafood and poultry market in Wuhan, China, sometime late last year. On December 31, 2019, the government of Wuhan confirmed that it was treating dozens of cases of pneumonia from an unknown cause, later identifying it as the coronavirus. COVID-19 is zoonotic, meaning it is transmitted from animals to humans, and has since continued spreading from human to human. It is still too early to determine exact and accurate mortality rates, and answers vary widely depending on the region, but the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that COVID-19 results in 3.4% of cases leading to death, primarily in elderly and immunocompromised patients, and expects it to be lower in actuality. Other researchers find that the rate lies between .66% and 1.38%. Excluding coughing, sneezing, and hard surfaces, health officials do not know all of the ways that this disease spreads but agree that it is highly contagious; the world’s understanding of COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. This disease has become a pandemic, being declared a "global health emergency' by the WHO.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the virus has been confirmed in over 200 countries, and at the top of the list is the United States, where 140,904 cases have been reported across 50 states and more US territories. How to approach the outbreak in the U.S. has been a topic of debate between political administration and health officials, but multiple measures are being taken, such as quarantines, travel restrictions, vaccine and medication trials, and testing kits. Regional shelter-in-place orders are increasingly demanded.
In California, the response is active and precautious. For instance, before the virus had reached San Francisco, Mayor London Breed said, "By declaring a state of emergency we are prioritizing the safety of our communities by being prepared. Our number one goal is the health and safety of all our residents."
After experiencing 114 diagnoses and its first COVID-19 death on March 4 (there are now 7,426 confirmed cases and 146 deaths), the state is eager to prevent more from developing, and as a result, Governor Newsom has mandated a shelter-in-place order until at least May 1st. The primary goal is to keep patient numbers as close to hospital capacity as possible, although resources are already stretched thin. Health officials, City Hall, and SFUSD urge people to follow shelter-in-place orders and to continue practicing healthy hygiene habits such as properly washing your hands and covering your mouth to sneeze and cough. COVID-19 reached multiple schools in San Francisco, including Lowell High School, Archbishop Riordan High School, and ICA Cristo Rey, all of which have had to shut down. Riordan canceled sports events, Lowell forfeited their soccer semifinals game, and ICA Cristo Rey canceled the Class of 2022's Sophomore Movie Night. All SFUSD schools, regardless of contamination status, were required to cancel "all non-essential school events" until at least March 22, but have since been shut down until April 3rd. Other schools are being closed indefinitely, and Governor Newsom warns that not coming back for the 2019-2020 school year is a real possibility.