The Coronavirus Outbreak

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted our lives, our economy and nearly every corner of the globe. It has sickened more than 95 million people worldwide. More than 2 million people have died so far.

Frequently Asked Questions

Probably not. If you are practicing social distancing and making only occasional trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, experts say that it’s not necessary to change clothes or take a shower when you return home. You should, however, always wash your hands upon entering your home. The same advice goes for head and facial hair: If you practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently, you probably don’t need to worry.

In the beginning, the coronavirus seemed like it was primarily a respiratory illness — many patients had fever and chills, were weak and tired, and coughed a lot, though some people don’t show many symptoms at all. Those who seemed sickest had pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome and received supplemental oxygen. By now, doctors have identified many more symptoms and syndromes. In April, the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed. Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on their fingers and toes — nicknamed “Covid toe” — but few other serious symptoms.

Outdoor gatherings lower risk because wind disperses viral droplets, and sunlight can kill some of the virus. Open spaces prevent the virus from building up in concentrated amounts and being inhaled, which can happen when infected people exhale in a confined space for long stretches of time, said Dr. Julian W. Tang, a virologist at the University of Leicester.

The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It's a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it's windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.

As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.

So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,”  but she later walked back that statement.

A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

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  2. PhotoScientists worry that if vaccinated people are silent spreaders of the virus, they may keep it circulating in their communities, putting unvaccinated people at risk.
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  3. PhotoDr. Anthony S. Fauci in March. “We really don’t know what the real number is,” he said recently.
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Maps and Trackers

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  1. PhotoPresident Biden issued an executive order to push for open schools.
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  2. Photo“The decision to delay our opening of school buildings is disheartening,” the superintendent of schools in Montclair, N.J., said.
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  4. PhotoAn empty classroom in São Paulo, Brazil.
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  3. PhotoFollowing a summer of social unrest, a group of bicyclists, including John Shackelford (second from left) who initiated the trip, rode from Mobile, Ala., to Washington, D.C., visiting places associated with Black history. Above, the group cycles in rural Georgia.
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  4. PhotoSnowfall after curfew in Strasbourg, France, earlier this month.
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  5. PhotoPresident Biden, at the White House on Wednesday, intends to undo much of the Trump era, including some initiatives championed by corporate America.
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Lives We've Lost

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  1. Photo“If a school was in trouble," a colleague said, “you could turn to Gladdie Fowler, place her in a position, and she would make it work.”
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  2. PhotoSuhail Zaheer Lari, with his wife, founded a preservation foundation in Pakistan. He was a leading force behind maintaining the nation’s cultural heritage.
    Creditvia Lari family
  3. PhotoAntonio Sabàto was an Italian actor known for action movies. He appeared in the car racing classic “Grand Prix” (1966).
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  4. PhotoPatty Sakal, an American Sign Language interpreter who translated updates about the coronavirus for deaf Hawaiians.
    Creditvia Sakal family
  5. PhotoBarbara Shelley was an elegant queen of camp in a succession of British horror movies. She appeared with Christopher Lee in the 1966 film “Dracula: Prince of Darkness.”
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