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Coronavirus Info & Updates

Friends, we are all in this together. This page has been created to provide helpful information and latest updates about Coronavirus aka COVID-19, especially as it relates to seniors. Bookmark this page, share with friends & family and check back often. Stay healthy. 

As of May 28, 2020, all States have reopened to various levels. The purpose of this post was to bring essential information and daily updates in the early stages to the many who may not have been adequately informed. This purpose has been fulfilled so we will be discontinuing further updates, at least on this post. Thank you for your support. Keep safe and be healthy.

Coronavirus Info & Updates

Latest Updates

May 28 - Initial jobless claims filed in the last week totaled 2.1 million, bringing the total during the last 10 weeks to more than 40 million. This is a horrific number but has been decreasing on a weekly basis for several weeks now.

May 28 - US deaths from COVID-19 pass the grim 100,000 milestone with total number of cases around 1.7 million. Number of cases are spiking in many States, mainly due to either reopening or the virus making its way to rural areas from urban centers. 

May 27 - California faces a budget shortfall of more than $50 billion. Without adequate federal support, many critical services are going to get impacted. Read more HERE.

May 25 - California issues guidelines for reopening churches including attendance, singing and sharing bibles and other things. Read more HERE.

May 24 - Large crowds gather in many places across the country during the Memorial Day weekend, flouting social distancing norms in place. Read more HERE.

May 23 - Beaches, Theaters, Sports teams & arenas and Amusement parks are either reopening or drawing up plans to do so over the next few months. With social distancing norms. Restaurants, hair salons and retail establishments are doing this already. Many schools and colleges are drawing up similar plans. We are firmly in the middle of progress towards reopening.

May 22 - CDC issues interim guidance for reopening of places of worship. The President urges them to reopen by Memorial Day. Read more HERE.

May 21 - 2.44 million initial jobless claims were filed last week, bringing the total to 38.6 million during the pandemic. Number of virus cases in the US surpass 1.5 million with over 93,000 deaths. Read more HERE.

May 20 - All US States have reopened partially. Some States are seeing an uptick in their COVID-19 cases. We should know more in the next week or so.

May 19 - NYU is planning to resume classes in the fall with enhanced remote study options for those unable to attend in person and social distancing practices for those who are able to attend. Read more HERE.

May 18 - Farmers and Ranchers can start applying for COVID-19 relief from May 26 onwards. Payments will be limited to $250,000 per entity.

May 17 - Texas experiences one of its deadliest days regarding COVID-19. Some attribute it to increased testing instead of the virus spreading. Keep your fingers crossed. As States reopen, this scenario is going to get repeated.

May 17 - Gyms have started reopening partially in some areas. Group classes are still off, admission is limited and both the visitor and gym staff are supposed to use wipes and disinfectants frequently.

May 16 - Many Long-term Care facilities (e.g. Nursing Homes) and Jails have emerged as hot spots for the virus' spread. More than 35% of COVID-19 related deaths in the US are from long-term care facilities. Basically, wherever strangers live in close proximity, cannot avoid contact and care standards are generally low. They will need to change how they operate.

May 16 - A new type of job has emerged - that of the 'Contact Tracer'. Testing and Contact Tracing are fundamental to containing the pandemic now and in the future. By one estimate, US may need at least 100,000 contact tracers. Read more HERE.

May 15 - The House of Representatives passed a massive Coronavirus relief bill totalling $3 Trillion. Lacking Republican support, there is not much hope of passing it in Senate. Read more HERE.

May 14 - Wisconsin Supreme Court overturns the State's "safer at home" order which was extended till May 26. This will either prove to be visionary or total catastrophic. We will know in 2-3 weeks. Read more HERE.

May 14 - Another 2.98 million initial jobless claims filed last week, bringing the total to roughly 36.5 claims filed in the last two months. Read more HERE.

May 13 - Alameda County backs down in its fight against Tesla. The factory reopens. Taking a cue, other manufacturing facilities may follow suit. However, legal issues remain. Are workers who refuse to come back going to be considered "jobless"?

May 12 - Shelter-in-place order may continue in place in LA County for next three months, albeit with releaxations as deemed fit. The hardest-hit county in California is not going to rush into opening the economy. Read more HERE.

May 12 - In a risky move, Tesla's manufacturing plant in Fremont has opened defying Alameda County's lockdown orders. So far the county has not taken any action. If the plant becomes a hot-spot for COVID-19, State and local governments may swiftly crackdown and close it. On the other hand, if it does not become a hot spot restrictions may be eased for other manufacturing facilities as well. Only time will tell. Read more HERE.

May 12 - Governor Gavin Newsom's office announces that California has passed the one million mark for COVID-19 tests conducted so far. Read more HERE.

May 11 - House Democrats are working on a fourth COVID-19 stimulus bill which will primnarily focus on helping State and Local governments. Support from Republicans and the White House is unclear at this stage. Read more HERE.

May 10 - Some White House staffers have tested positive for COVID-19, raising fears among senior administration officials. The WH Task Force on COVID-19 has started quarantining themselves as well. Read more HERE.

May 9 - Number of COVID-19 cases pass 4 million worldwide, including at least 278,000 deaths. US stands at 1.3 million cases with over 78,000 deaths. See details HERE.

May 8 - Stocks turn positive for the year, erasing their earlier losses, as States start reopening their economies. Hardest-hit industries seem to be Restaurants, Travel, Entertainment and Sports. 

May 7 - The White House has rejected CDC's detailed reopening guidelines, though you may still want to follow some of those suggestions on your own. Read the CDC draft HERE.

May 7 - Another 3.2 million initial jobless claims filed, bringing the total to 33.5 million over the last two months. Roughly 1 in 5 working Americans. Read more HERE.

May 6 - The White House Task Force for pandemic is going to shift focus to Reopening instead. Nearly all States have announced measures to partially reopen their economies with social distancing guidelines. Read more HERE.

May 5 - California announces lockdown relaxation for some retail sectors, albeit with local approval and observance of social distancing guidelines. Read more HERE.

May 4 - The revised University of Washington's model for COVID-19 now predicts 134,000 deaths in the US, double its previous estimate, primarily due to many States reopening their economies too soon. Read more HERE.

May 4 - In a sign of changing times, the US Supreme Court starts conducting business through teleconference. Read more HERE.

May 3 - Nursing homes are bearing the brunt of COVID-19. About 27% of deaths from the virus seem to be from nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Read more HERE. Prisons are turning out to be hot spots for COVID-19 too and many States have decided to release low-risk prisoners.

May 2 - Meat-processing plants are in a tough situation. They are a vital component of the food supply but have experienced very high rates of COVID-19 infections, forcing many of them to shut down. Workers are refusing to come back to work without adequate safety. This scenario may very well repeat in other industries as well. Read more HERE.

May 1 - May is here and almost half the US is planning to ease restrictions by opening partially. If they manage to contain the spread of COVID-19, other States may follow in their steps quickly. Read more HERE.

May 1 - FDA authorizes emergency medical use of Gilead Sciences' Remdesivir drug to treat COVID-19 patients. Read more HERE.

April 30 - 3.84 million jobless claims filed last week, bringing the total over the last six weeks to more than 30 million. These are ugly numbers. More claims are expected during May. Read the details HERE.

April 29 - Some positive data comes out of Phase 3 trial of Gilead Sciences' COVID-19 treatment drug Remdesivir, spurring hopes of finding an effective treatment sooner than later. Read more HERE.

April 28 - Bay Area counties in California extend shelter-in-place order till end of May. Read more HERE.

April 28 - US passes one million COVID-19 cases per John Hopkins University. Get the details HERE.

April 28 - JetBlue now requires all passengers to wear face masks on its flights. Read more HERE.

April 27 - Reduction in human activity is resulting in far better air quality across the globe. The largest ever recorded ozone hole over the Arctic has closed according to scientists. Read more HERE.

April 26 - Read HERE about where each State currently stands on reopening their economies and easing lockdowns.

April 25 - Some States like Georgia have started reopening by taking small steps but still maintaining social distancing guidelines. Read more HERE.

April 24 - President signs the $484 Billion bill for adding more funds to the PPP program for helping small businesses, as well as putting more money towards hospitals and testing for COVID-19 infections. There is talk about a fifth bill to help State and Local governments which are facing budgetary issues. Read more HERE.

April 23 - Another 4.4 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total to 26 million during the last five weeks. Read more HERE.

April 22 - NIH (National Institutes of Health) has developed and published COVID-19 treatment guidelines

April 21 - Congress has seemingly agreed upon an additional $450 Billion for COVID-19 relief, mainly to support small businesses through the PPP program which had run out of funds earlier. Read more HERE.

April 21 - The President is considering a temporarily halt to all immigration to the US during the pandemic.

April 20 - US crude prices (oil) for May fell below $0 for the first time since trading in oil futures opened in 1983. There is a serious oil glut and storage capacity is almost full. Lockdowns have exacerbated the situation. 

April 19 - US reaches the grim milestone of at least 40,000 COVID-19 related deaths. New York finally seems to be on the decline for virus infections.

April 18 - Jacksonville, FL, opens its beach to the public despite surging number of COVID-19 cases in the sunshine State. Protesters elsewhere have starting demonstrating against the economy being locked down. The next few weeks are going to be contentious. Read more HERE.

April 17 - Finally a silver lining on the horizon. Gilead Sciences' drug Remdesivir shows early success in treating COVID-19 patients. Other companies are reportedly working on treatments as well. Read more HERE.

April 16 - Another 5.2 million file for unemployment benefits, bringing the total to 22 million in the last few weeks. Also, SBA seems to have run out of money for the PPP program to help small businesses. This was a huge program ($349 Billion) and Congress is expected to add more money to it in the coming days.

April 15 - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says that the State will require wearing of face masks in public when social distancing cannot be maintained. This is a temporary measure during gradual reopening of the economy. Read more HERE.

April 14 - California outlines six measures which will be used to decide on when to start reopening the economy gradually. Read more HERE.

April 13 - California, Oregon and Washington States announce a pact for reopening their economies based on health outcomes. Read more details HERE.

April 12 - LA Times has a COVID-19 tracker for California by County. Find out about your county. Tracker is updated daily. Click HERE.

April 11 - NY state has first daily drop in COVID-19 ICU cases as well as a drop in new hospitalizations. Read more HERE.

April 10 - Stimulus payments will start next week, according to IRS. Information will be taken from your 2018 / 2019 return or from your social security payments. If you do not fall under any of these categories, make sure to visit IRS Portal for updating your information.

April 9 - Another 6.61 million initial jobless claims filed, bringing the total filed in the last three weeks to 16.8 million. Read more HERE.

April 8 - COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are expected to peak this Saturday. We are still on the uptick. However, estimates for total number of deaths in the U.S. have been revised downwards. Some glimmer of hope but we will know better next week. For this week, hunker down.

April 7 - U.S. officials warn that this may be the worst week yet. New York records its highest number of daily deaths so far, belying earlier hopes of a flattening curve. Read more HERE.

April 6 - COVID-19 related deaths in the US seem to be flattening out. Hopefully there is good news ahead. However, we will still need to deal with the social and economic fallout. Make sure you get your stimulus payments.

April 5 - New York State sees its first drop in daily COVID-19 deaths. We could be seeing a pleateau in New York but it is too early to tell. Read more HERE.

April 4 - Eight State Governors have still not issued state-wide lockdown orders in their States. This has the potential to backfire in a big way. Only time will tell. Read more HERE.

April 4 - CDC revises its face mask guidelines and now recommends wearing 'cloth face coverings' outside to supplement social distancing. To quote verbatim "CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission". Read more HERE.

April 3 - Stimulus checks will start getting directly deposited in your bank account starting next week. Make sure IRS has your direct deposit information either from a 2018 / 2019 return or from Social Security or Railroad Retirement. It will take longer to mail out paper checks. Read more HERE.

April 2 - Initial jobless claims filed last week jumped to 6.6 million, double that of previous week which itself was a record. About 10 million initial jobless claims filed within the last couple of weeks. This is going to get worse. Read more HERE.

April 1 - The President and administration officials were reportedly considering a special enrollment period in ACA for the uninsured but have decided against it. Read more HERE.

March 31 - The President says Americans should be prepared for a 'very, very painful two weeks' ahead. Projections put the total number of deahts from COVID-19 in the US at between 100,000 to 240,000.

March 31 - 3 in 4 Americans are under lockdown i.e. told to stay at home. However, many States are yet to issue state-wide lockdowns. Big cities are on the forefront and usually have stricter guidelines than other areas.

March 30 - Social distancing guidelines extended till end of April. Hopefully the crisis would have peaked in many areas by then and the economy can be opened up again albeit gradually. Is this optimistic? Only time will tell. Read more HERE.

March 29 - Instead of a quarantine, President decides to issue a travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. 

March 28 - President is considering quarantining parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. New York's governor Andrew Cuomo may apparently not like the idea. Read more HERE.

March 28 - FDA has authorized use of Abbott Laboratories COVID-19 test that can deliver positive results in under 5 minutes and negative results in under 13 minutes. Production and delivery of 50,000 tests per day is expected to start next week. This has the potential to change COVID-19 testing landscape in the US. Read more HERE.

March 27 - It's official. President signs the $2.2T stimulus bill into law after the House and Senate passed it earlier. There is going to be relief. But will it be enough?

March 26 - Jobless claims jump to 3.28 Million. They were at 211,000 just two weeks back. The peak may be a few weeks away. This is quadruple the previous record. Read more HERE.

March 25 - Congress and Whitehouse agree on a massive $2 Trillion Coronavirus Stimulus bill. Passage looks almost certain though procedural formalities could take a couple more days. This bill is serious business. Read more HERE.

March 24 - Amazon prioritizes household staples for delivery, airlines are drafting plans to potentially shut down a majority of their flights and Summer 2020 Olympics postponed to 2021.

March 23 - CDC releases COVID-19 self-checker questionnaire. These are probably some of the questions a healthcare provider may ask if you are feeling ill and want to check if you have the virus. Go to CDC Self-Check Questionnaire.

March 22 - National Guard deployed to California, New York and Washington States. Read more HERE.

March 21 - New data suggests that apart from older adults, young adults aged 20 - 44 yrs also face substantial risk of serious illness from Coronavirus. And other age groups too. Stay safe and healthy. Read more HERE.

March 21 - New York and Los Angeles have codified shortage of testing kits by declaring that Coronavirus testing need not be done on those where there would be no change in treatment irrespective of result. More cities and states may follow suit. Read more HERE.

March 20 - Federal Income Tax filing deadline for 2019 extended by three months to July 15. Previously IRS had only extended the payment date. The filing date has now been extended as well. Read more HERE.  Note that your State may have a DIFFERENT deadline for filing State taxes. State-wise details 

March 19 - California's Governor Gavin Newsom orders all 40 million state residents to stay at home, the first state-wide mandatory restrictions in the US. Law enforcement will not force people to comply though, trusting them to use common sense and judgement. Read more HERE.

March 19 - Beware of scammers trying to cash in on the Coronavirus scare. Do not click on links from unknown sources, ignore online offers for vaccinations (Coronavirus vaccine does not exist) and exercise sound judgement if making a donation. Read more HERE.

March 18 - President signs the Coronavirus Relief Package into law. The package provides for free testing and emergency paid leave for those who are either infected or are caring for someone who is infected. It includes additional Medicaid funding, food assistance and unemployment benefits. In addition, a massive financial stimulus bill is currently being debated and should pass soon. Read more HERE.

March 18 - The President invokes the Defense Production Act to speed up medical supplies like ventilators, masks, testing kits, on a massive scale. It gives him broad powers over businesses as well. Read more HERE.

March 18 - IRS announces 90-day extension for paying taxes, if you owe any on your 2019 return. Note that this does NOT extend the deadline for filing your taxes, which is still April 15th. Read more HERE.

March 17 - Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases now in all 50 US States. Read more HERE.

March 17 - San Francisco and surrounding counties issue shelter-in-place orders. New York is preparing to follow suit. Other severly affected areas may implement similar measures in the future. Click HERE for details.

March 17 - Medicare expands telehealth services to facilitate older adults getting these services while staying at home during the COVID-19 outbreak. Click HERE for details.

March 16 - Google subsidiary's site ProjectBaseline.com has gone live with Coronavirus testing information. Two bay area counties are covered at the moment but coverage is expected to expand rapidly. Go to ProjectBaseline.com.

March 16 - NIH begins trial of COVID-19 vaccine in Seattle. Click HERE for details.

March 16 - France says otc painkillers and fever reducers like ibuprofen may actually aggravate Coronavirus and advises that paracetamol be taken instead. The jury is still out on this one. Click HERE for details.

March 15 - CDC advises against gatherings of 50 or more people. Click HERE for details.

March 15 - Fed reduces its benchmark interest rate to near zero and launches $700 Billion Quantitative Easing program. Click HERE for details. 

March 15 - Dine-in restaurants and Bars closing down. You can still carry out. Click HERE for details.

March 15 - Chaos at US airports as returning international passengers face long queues and crowded spaces to undergo testing for COVID-19, running a higher risk of contracting the virus at the airport. Click HERE for details.

March 15 - Australia and New Zealand have really tightened their border policy. Anyone arriving from outside the country, including citizens, will need to quarantine for 14 days. US is extending its travel ban to more countries. Click HERE for details.

March 14 - Google is creating a website which will help in triaging COVID-19 cases, including helping people find where to go for testing. It is expected to go live next week at ProjectBaseline.com. The site will initially cover California, expanding nationally over time.

March 13 - The President declares National Emergency over Coronavirus, freeing up funds and bringing in FEMA to help combat the spread of the virus. In addition, he said he expected 1.4 million additional tests to be available next week and 5 million within a month. Click HERE for details.

March 13 - K-12 schools are closing across the nation, along with universities and colleges. We are finally becoming serious about controlling the spread of COVID-19. Click HERE for details.

March 12 – Coronavirus testing will be free irrespective of your health insurance plan. Click HERE for details.

March 11 – Shortage of Coronavirus testing kits is making matters much worse. Click HERE for details.

Current Map of Confirmed Cases

John Hopkins University is tracking confirmed COVID-19 cases in real-time across the world. Click on the link below for an interactive map which can be moved, zoomed and clicked upon for further details. 

https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

Useful Links

What is Coronavirus aka COVID-19?

Coronavirus is a more general term e.g. SARS in 2003-2004 was also a Coronavirus. The current pandemic is a specific strain which has been named COVID-19.

Though most patients should be able to recover with proper care at home, the virus may cause severe illness, including fatalities. Look at the map above to get a realistic idea about the risk.

There is no specific treatment for COVID-19 as it is a new strain. Current treatments focus on supportive measures e.g. reducing fever, providing respiratory support.

As of now, no vaccine exists for COVID-19 though efforts are ongoing to develop one as quickly as possible. Still, considering the time it would take for developing, testing, manufacturing and distributing, a vaccine may not be available for months.

How does Coronavirus spread?

The virus usually spreads through tiny respiratory droplets of an infected person from coughing or sneezing. These droplets can linger in the air for some time.

Respiratory droplets need not transfer directly from person to person. If a surface is contaminated you may pick up the germs with your hands which later transfer to your eyes, nose or mouth.

Symptoms may take up to two weeks to develop during which an infected person may be spreading the virus unknowingly.

Protecting yourself

  • Avoid being in close proximity (within 6 feet) to individuals who may have the virus or being in the same spot where they may have been very recently.
  • Wash your hands frequently using soap and water or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean or disinfect surfaces and objects others frequently touch in your home or office e.g. doorknobs, elevator buttons, handrails, light switches, faucets.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or flexed elbow to avoid spreading your respiratory droplets. Throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid shaking hands if possible. Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces e.g. airplanes and cruise ships.
  • Wear a face mask if you have respiratory symptoms or are going to be in close proximity to someone who does e.g. caregivers.
  • Self-quarantine for two weeks if you suspect you may have been exposed. See your doctor immediately if symptoms develop.

Symptoms

Symptoms for COVID-19 may take up to 14 days after infection to develop. These may include:

  • Cough,
  • Fever,
  • Muscle and body aches,
  • Shortness of breath.

If you develop emergency warning signs, get medical attention immediately.

Are Seniors more at risk of getting Coronavirus?

Older adults and those with chronic medical conditions like Lung or Heart disease or Diabetes are more at risk of getting infected as per CDC. Based on data available so far, older adults are twice as likely to develop serious conditions due to COVID-19. Even if a Coronavirus infection is controlled, it may lead to other illnesses like severe pneumonia. Seniors are particularly susceptible in such situations.

CDC is advising seniors to stay at home as much as possible and avoid crowds. Activities to avoid include air travel, going on a cruise, watching movies in theaters, attending family events, going to crowded malls or entertainment parks, attending shows, sporting events or conferences and in general any poorly ventilated crowded place.

For more details, take a look at https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2020/03/health/coronavirus-tipsheets/older-adults/

What should you do if you start developing symptoms?

Consult your doctor immediately if you start developing symptoms. Over the phone first. Follow your doctor’s instructions and get tested if your doctor recommends that you do so. Start wearing a face mask. Avoid public places. Self-quarantine till the test results come back negative (hopefully).

Testing for Coronavirus needs specialized kits. Most doctors and even some hospitals may not be able to test for it inside their facilities. They may need to use an outside test lab.

Many labs are requesting that they receive the test sample from your caregiver and do NOT encourage you to turn up at their lab due to the risk of infecting other patients.

Here is good information from CDC on this topic https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html

Medicare Coverage

The following is straight from Medicare.gov.

  • Medicare covers the lab tests for COVID-19. You pay no out-of-pocket costs.
  • Medicare covers all medically necessary hospitalizations. This includes if you're diagnosed with COVID-19 and might otherwise have been discharged from the hospital after an inpatient stay, but instead you need to stay in the hospital under quarantine.
  • At this time, there's no vaccine for COVID-19. However, if one becomes available, it will be covered by all Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Part D).
  • If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, you have access to these same benefits. Medicare allows these plans to waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 lab tests. Many plans offer additional telehealth benefits beyond the ones described below. Check with your plan about your coverage and costs.

We have an entire FAQ devoted to this topic. Read more HERE.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

a) Does wearing a face mask prevent getting infected?

To quote, "CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission".

Face masks are definitely recommended for those with symptoms (so that they do not spread their respiratory droplets).

Caregivers, who are in close contact with infected patients, generally use professional-quality tight-fitting masks like the N95.

b) Should you stop buying products made in China or in other countries where Coronavirus is widespread?

Most viruses like the Coronavirus do not stay alive on package surfaces for a long time. If the product has been sitting on store shelves for a few weeks, you are not likely to get infected by buying or using it. However, the virus is not understood fully and more information is emerging on a daily basis.

It is recommended that you sanitize groceries and other products before bringing them inside the house. During shopping, make sure you wipe the cart. Also, wash your hands with soap when you come back from outside.

c) How about dining out? Should I stock up on food?

Restaurants and Bars have been advised to avoid dine-ins but takeouts are allowed. Grocery chains and stores are expected to remain fully open so there does not seem to be any worry about running out of food. Even if some stores do run out of specific food items temporarily, they should be able to restock quickly. Federal and state agencies recommend having a week's supply of food on hand.

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Last Updated: 11-17-2019