General Update: COVID-19 (3/29/20)

Updated: Jun 8

WHAT IS COVID-19:


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as a respiratory illness that can easily spread from person to person. Transmission can occur between people up to six feet from each other through coughing, sneezing, or even breathing. Symptoms include coughing, fever, and shortness of breath, although transmission is possible when the virus is in its incubation period and an individual is asymptomatic. There is no vaccine or anti-viral treatment currently available.


COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China in December of 2019. According to some news agencies and intelligence services, the Chinese government attempted to hide the fact a pandemic was brewing by silencing medical professionals and censoring the internet.

IMPLICATIONS FOR UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: 


In a press conference at the White House on March 27th, Vice-President Pence announced the administration was issuing new guidelines for combating the COVID-19 pandemic. This indicates that the peak of infection rates has not yet been reached, and that the nationwide standstill may remain for at least two more weeks. Officials are still urging Americans to work from home if possible, stay home if sick, eat at home, avoid social gatherings, avoid nursing homes, and practice good hygiene regularly. Non-essential businesses across the nation have shuttered, while entire industries teeter on the edge of collapse. In order to combat this economic stagnation, and prevent a recession from seriously impact economic growth, legislators in the House of Representatives have passed a nearly $2 Trillion Stimulus Package that would not only keep businesses alive, but put at least $1,200 into every taxpayers pocket.

On March 18th, the President invoked the Defense Production Act, a wartime authority that allows him to direct industry to produce critical equipment. His reasoning for this was to specifically increase production of medical masks and ventilators due to the expected surge in COVID-19 cases. As the number of available testing kits has risen, and more laboratories have been certified to test, the amount of confirmed cases within the United States has grown significantly. Due to virility of the virus and a high mortality rate, fears are growing that the U.S. medical system is ill prepared to deal with crisis it now faces. In order to prevent a systemwide failure caused by a surge that overwhelms hospitals, the federal government has begun constructing medical facilities in New York and California, while the President has deployed medical ships to the West Coast and East Coast.

The US case count has now surpassed China, with 135,000 confirmed cases and 2,381 confirmed deaths. 

IMPLICATIONS ACROSS THE GLOBE:


There are nearly 711,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally with 33,500 deaths, although the theorized number is much higher. This has placed a immense amount of strain upon global supply chains and the international system.

Although the spread of the virus in China has seemingly been brought under control, the economic damage irreparable.  The Chinese economy has thus far suffered an immense amount of damage. Official government numbers estimate that Chinese exports fell nearly 17.2 percent. The automobile industry alone within China has suck by nearly 80 percent. As government numbers have always been somewhat inflated, analysts worry the situation could be much worse than presented. Adding to fears, medical experts now say a 'boomerang' of case numbers is possible in Asia as people who may still be sick emerge from mandatory lockdowns.

Across the communist nation, political fallout is growing. Dissent has been widespread amongst citizens, so much so that even the skilled censors employed by the central government are struggling to keep the clamp down on anti-government speech. This has culminated in the disappearance of Chinese billionaire Ren Zhiqiang after he spoke out against the communist party and General Secretary Xi Jingping's response to the Pandemic.

With cross-border travel halted in nearly every region of the globe, the world has ground to a halt. More and more world leaders are at risk for infection, most notably Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has tested positive. As infections mount in Europe and Asia, concern is mounting that certain nations may return to recession territory, namely Italy, South Korea, and Japan. Italy, one of the hardest hit in Europe, is also one of the countries least able to deal with the economic fallout. The IMF has noted if Italy's spending trend continues, it will violate the terms of an agreement with the European Union in which it agreed to keep its budget deficit low. South Korea's auto industry, already struggling with supply chain disruptions from mainland China, has been effectively halted as the epicenters of the COVID-19 outbreak in Korea, Daegu and North Gyeongsang, have been shuttered. Unfortunately for South Koreans, this just happens to be where the majority of their heavy machine plants are located. Even with emergency spending by the government, the future is bleak for the country's economy. Finally, Japanese firms saw their overall output and sales collapse slide to the pandemic, sparking fears a recession may be inevitable.


The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Army, Department of Defense, or the United States Government.

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