2020 had barely begun when life as the world knew it was upended and redefined. Reports at the end of 2019 of a mysterious disease spreading rapidly through Wuhan, China made headlines in the United States, but were not met with alarm by the general American public. It was later determined that the disease that we now know as COVID-19 was caused by SARS-CoV-2, a coronavirus. Coronaviruses, which also cause diseases such as SARS and MERS, are viruses that are common in animals and are so named for the spiky halo of crowns, or corona, that appear around their structure when viewed under a microscope.
Initial symptoms of COVID-19 can be mild and when listed may sound nondescript or even unconcerning; they include cough, fever, chills, shortness of breath, muscle or body aches, loss of taste or smell, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, fever, nausea, and vomiting. But the disease can rapidly, and often without much warning, progress to severe respiratory distress that requires intubation, organ failure, and death. It is highly contagious, spread by aerosol droplets shed through sneezing, coughing, talking and laughing. Its highly contagious nature has overwhelmed hospitals, creating so many critically ill patients that hospitals have not had enough beds, supplies, and ventilators to support afflicted patients. In New York City, the original epicenter of the disease in the United States, refrigerated trucks were parked in the streets to hold the bodies of the dead because morgues could not accommodate the number of fatalities. Italy, which was ravaged by COVID-19 in the early months of 2020, had one of the highest number of active cases in the world; more than 35,000 people have died. At the time of this guide's writing, there is no vaccine and no cure for COVID-19.
As of July 2020 when this guide was written, there have been almost 17.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and nearly 675,000 deaths. Current global hotspots include Brazil, India, and Russia, but the United States currently has both the most confirmed cases, at nearly 4.5 million, and the most deaths, at 152,082. As some states, such as New York, that were ravaged by the disease in early spring begin to reopen, outbreaks continue across the western and southern states of the United States, with Florida breaking its record for the most number of deaths in a single day on July 14th. Maintaining social distance and compliance with state-issued orders to wear masks have become flashpoint political issues; in May, protestors gathered in Michigan's state capitol building to protest the governor's stay-at-home mandate. As the year turns towards autumn, states across the country grapple with whether to open schools for in-person instruction and whether to require students to wear masks. 17.8 million Americans who were suddenly unemployed by the pandemic wait to see if the extra federal unemployment benefit of $600 per week will be extended past the end of July.
While we may not know what the next months will bring in the COVID-19 pandemic, HeinOnline has launched COVID-19 in America: Response, Issues, and Law to empower us with information. Compiling publications on the various ways COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of life, from testing issues, to stimulus payments, to the quest for a vaccine, this database organizes its content into the following areas of impact: Economics, Global, Health, and Society, with an expanding selection of scholarly articles and external links to take your learning beyond HeinOnline. This database, much like our understanding of the disease, will continue to evolve over the coming months and years as new content is published and integrated with regular updates.