The Covid-19 Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has affected our lives, our economy and nearly every corner of the globe. It has sickened more than 158 million people worldwide. More than 3.3 million people have died so far.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Coronavirus

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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Vaccine

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  1. PhotoPeople receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a high school in Houston last month.
    CreditGo Nakamura for The New York Times
  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.
    CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
  4. PhotoThe Department of Homeland Security’s list of essential workers is long and varied, including jobs such as tugboat operators and these grocery store clerks in Brooklyn.
    CreditJuan Arredondo for The New York Times
  5. PhotoVictoria, the capital of Seychelles, earlier this year. The tiny island nation, with a population of just over 100,000, is now battling a surge of the coronavirus and has had to reimpose a lockdown.
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Maps and Trackers

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Schools

  1. PhotoA commencement ceremony at the University of Missouri this month.
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  4. PhotoGov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York spoke at a news conference on Monday about requiring students on public college campuses in New York to be vaccinated against Covid-19. 
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  5. PhotoPresident Biden’s decision to raise the job of science adviser to a cabinet-level position could make Eric Lander one of the most influential scientists in American history.
    CreditAmr Alfiky/The New York Times

Travel

  1. PhotoIf you’re looking for mountains and wildlife, Denali National Park is a must for a D.I.Y. Alaska itinerary.
    CreditJocelyn Pride/State of Alaska
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  3. PhotoA vaccination center in Berlin last month. Germany’s vaccination program is gaining steam, with nearly a third of the population receiving at least one dose.
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  4. PhotoYona Shemesh, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen who lives in Israel, ended up paying $450 to a broker for a booked appointment to renew his American passport. He tried for eight months to do so himself at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
    CreditTanya Habjouqa for The New York Times
  5. PhotoIn Italy, around 11 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.
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Economy

  1. PhotoEconomic activity is expected to surge in Rehoboth Beach, Del., as people who missed 2020 getaways head for vacations and the newly vaccinated spend savings amassed during months at home.
    CreditAlyssa Schukar for The New York Times
  2. PhotoPresident Biden promised on Monday that more relief was working its way into the economy.
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  4. PhotoSpeaking on Friday at the White House, President Biden said there was no “measurable” evidence that hiring had been slowed by expanded unemployment benefits.
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  5. PhotoPresident Biden and his administration are under pressure from critics to end an expanded benefit for the unemployed.
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Lives We've Lost

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  1. PhotoMohammad Ashraf Sehrai favored merging India’s predominantly Muslim Kashmir region with Pakistan.
    CreditFaisal Khan
  2. PhotoThe Brazilian comedian and actor Paulo Gustavo in 2019. He created the beloved character Dona Hermínia, a wasp-tongued mother, and played her on both stage and screen. 
    CreditVictor Pollak/Agence France-Presse, via O Globo Tv/Afp Via Getty Images
  3. PhotoManzoor Ahtesham in an undated photo. A major voice in Hindi literature, he chronicled his native Bhopal in “The Tale of the Missing Man” and other works.
    CreditNorthwestern University Press
  4. PhotoThe prominent Indian jurist Soli Sorabjee at his home in New Delhi in 2006. He was considered such a good lawyer that the courtrooms where he appeared were frequently packed.
    CreditHemant Chawla/The The India Today Group, via Getty Images
  5. PhotoVira Sathidar protested the deeply rooted caste system in India, under which those at the bottom are systematically abused. He played the role of a similar activist in the 2014 movie “Court”; he is shown here during shooting.
    CreditZoo Entertainment