Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Switchel Traveler: Not Traveling

The COVID-19 pandemic is turning our world upside down.

The theme of this blog is adventures in the physical world; basically it's a travel blog. We are not traveling now. On Tuesday, March 24, Vermont Governor Phil Scott issued a "Stay Home, Stay Safe" executive order, similar to many other states. Nothing like this pandemic has happened in our lifetimes. These are unprecedented times.

The source of this extraordinary situation is the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes the COVID-19 disease. Like all viruses, SARS-CoV-2 is so small that it cannot be seen even with the most powerful optical microscopes. Yet this tiny virus is very much a part of our physical world.

The image above, showing the virus, is from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The director of the NIAID is Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is much in the news currently. Original image, uploaded on February 19, 2020. Description at the link: "This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round gold objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, is the virus that causes COVID-19. The virus shown was isolated from a patient in the U.S."

The World Health Organization (WHO) characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (link) That evening President Trump banned most travelers from Europe. On Friday, March 13, President Trump declared a national emergency.

Earlier in the year President Trump had banned most travelers from China, where the virus was first reported in late 2019. That announcement was made on January 31, effective February 2. (link) Also on January 31, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a mandatory quarantine order for Americans returning from Wuhan, China – the first such quarantine in more than 50 years. (link) At the time, no deaths from COVID-19 had been reported outside China.

COVID-19 deaths in Europe have now surpassed deaths in China. As I write this, there have been more than 22,000 deaths worldwide, a third in Italy alone (source); 994 deaths in the U.S. (source); and 9 deaths in Vermont (source).

There is no cure for COVID-19 (although most people recover, albeit sometimes with organ damage). There is no vaccine for COVID-19. The most important action to take is to limit contact between people in order to slow the spread of the disease. Hence the travel bans and the "Stay Home" executive order.

We are hunkering down.

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