Putting COVID-19 in perspective
The COVID-19 pandemic is not unique. There have been similar events throughout history, including the H1N1-based influenza pandemic (Spanish Flu), which started in 1918 and was estimated to result in 50 million deaths worldwide (and 675,000 in the U.S.). The H3N2-based Hong Kong flu pandemic in 1968 was estimated to be responsible for about four million global deaths. The worst pandemic, of course, was the Black Death (bubonic plague) in 1347 to 1353, which was estimated to be responsible for up to 200 million global deaths. Bubonic plague is still found in isolated areas (such as the western U.S.), but can be treated successfully in most cases with antibiotics.
The unique qualities of the COVID-19 disease and the resulting weak health responses have allowed it to spread quickly throughout the world via common transportation vehicles (i.e., air transport, cruise liners), large social gatherings and traditional business relationships. Of those patients who become infected with COVID-19, from 15% to 40% will be asymptomatic (no symptoms initially and none later, but infected individuals can still spread the infection). The remaining infected individuals (pre-symptomatic) will become infectious for two to three days before they themselves begin to have symptoms. And those having symptoms may not see them (coughs, shortness of breath, fever, sore throat, runny nose, decreased smell capability) for up to two weeks before they appear. Net, a lot of individuals were and are walking around and being contagious with COVID-19 and they weren’t aware of it. However, once infected, the disease can ravage the body with respiratory effects, blood clots and more.
As of this writing, more than 4 million U.S. citizens have been diagnosed as having COVID-19 with nearly 150,000 deaths attributed to it. Globally, there are more than 15 million infected and more than 600,000 deaths. And in most regions, especially in the U.S., the number of infections and associated deaths are continuing to increase.
Regions issued stay-at-home orders throughout May and June to reduce face-to-face meetings and reduce the number of transmitted infections. The universal stay-at-home directives shut down factories, offices, materials suppliers and research laboratories for up to eight weeks. Manufacturing and service operations were also shut down or severely restricted due to parts and materials shortages.
Everyone who could became a work-at-home employee. However, if your job could not be performed remotely, you were laid off. More than 21 million workers could not work remotely and they filed for unemployment. In one month (April 2020), the U.S. unemployment rate increased to a record 14.7%. By the time of this writing (three months later), following the start of phased localized reopening plans, the national unemployment rate has improved, but is still more than 11%. Only the unemployment rates during the Great Depression (about 25%) exceeded the current unemployment rates.
The problem with COVID-19 (and other pandemics) is that the person sitting next to you at a chemistry workbench or subway car or grocery checkout line may be infected and contagious with the COVID-19 disease — and neither of you will know it for several days or weeks. And the effects of being infected have been shown to be possibly fatal across all age groups, racial grouping, or nationalities (a recent study by Johns Hopkins Health Systems, however has seen a higher incidence (positivity index) among Latinx individuals than in white (4.8x) or even Black (2.4x) individuals). Those with pre-existing conditions (including age) have also been shown to have a slightly enhanced proclivity toward being infected and often with a more aggressive strain of the virus.
And at this point in time, there is no cure, there is not an acquired herd immunity (as shown in Sweden) or a proven vaccine. Individuals with O-type blood appear to be slightly less affected by the virus, but still are vulnerable. Diet, geographic distributions, and physical health have also been shown to have no benefits. Isolation, social distancing and masks appear to be the only preventatives, although more research is continuing.
This article is part of R&D World’s annual Global Funding Forecast (Executive Edition). This report has be published annually for more than six decades. To purchase the full, comprehensive report, which is 67 pages in length, please visit the 2020 Global Funding Forecast homepage.