Mar 28, 2020 - Health

1-minute read: 10 fact-based steps to a virus crisis

Illustration of an alarm clock shaped like a virus, with one minute highlighted in red

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

News about the coronavirus is so big and coming so fast that it's hard to remember what happened just last week, let alone last month.

Here's the quickest possible review of the story so far — how it happened and how the U.S. lost control.

  1. The first known cases in Wuhan emerged in November or December, and Chinese officials spent part of January downplaying the problem.
  2. In early January, China posted the virus' genome for all to study — and later that month, China put strict measures in place that helped eventually limit its outbreak.
  3. Communities around the globe that had previous experience with the SARS outbreak prepared early and have so far avoided the worst impacts.
  4. The U.S. bought itself some extra time by screening passengers from Wuhan mid-January and advising against unnecessary travel to China later that month.
  5. But the U.S. squandered that time — failing to resolve the breakdown of its testing system, to ramp up production of masks and ventilators, or to move quickly on social distancing measures.
  6. Invalid comparisons with seasonal flu outbreaks led individuals and leaders to downplay the virus’ danger.
  7. For now, until we develop treatments and vaccines, distance and hygiene are the only weapons against the spread of this new virus.
  8. Shutdowns cause widespread economic harm. So does mass illness. Economies can recover. The dead can’t.
  9. Our errors have all been on the side of underestimating the virus and, despite warnings, under-preparing for the crisis.
  10. Whatever mistakes lie behind us, each day offers new chances to limit future harm.
Go deeper