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Updated June 12, 2020

COVID-19: Global Implications and Responses

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-
CoV-2) is believed to have emerged in Wuhan, China, in
late 2019, and it has since spread around the globe.
Confirmed cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
are most numerous in the United States, Russia, and Brazil
(Figure 1). As of June 11, 2020, the World Health
Organization (WHO) estimated that over 7.4 million people
had contracted COVID-19 worldwide, and that over
400,000 people had died from it. WHO declared the
outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International
Concern (PHEIC) on January 30 and labeled it a
pandemic on March 11. For more information, see CRS
Report R46319, Novel Coronavirus 2019 (CO VID-19):
Q&A on Global Implications and Responses).

Coronaviruses are a large family of zoonotic viruses
viruses transmissible between animals and humans that
can cause illness ranging from the common cold to more
severe diseases such as Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome
(MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), the most common symptoms among
confirmed COVID-19 patients include fever or chills,
shortness of breath, and a cough. Data suggest that older
adults, those who live in nursing homes or long-term care
facilities, and those with preexisting medical conditions
(such as heart and lung disease, cancer, and diabetes) are
more likely to be severely sickened or die from COVID-19.
Many health experts suspect the true worldwide case count
is significantly higher than reported due to asymptomatic
cases and insufficient diagnostic testing and contact tracing
in some countries. Globally, nearly half of reported cases
and deaths have been in the Americas. The United States
accounted for 27% of both reported cases and reported
deaths worldwide. Several countries are seeing rapid

increases in COVID-19 cases, including Brazil, Chile,
India, Russia, and Pakistan.
No vaccines for COVID-19 exist, and current diagnostic
supplies are insufficient to meet global demand. As a result,
governments, philanthropies, international organizations,
scientists, and manufacturers have undertaken efforts to
expedite research and development (R&D) for COVID-19
vaccines, as well as other medical products (e.g., diagnostic
tests). Globally, at least 200 experimental COVID-19
vaccine candidates are under development. Health experts
are also considering how to develop sufficient supply of
any vaccine created and bolster supply chain networks,
particularly in low-resource and conflict settings. Some
experts believe that the best-case scenario for a vaccine
would be spring 2021; they caution that supplies of vaccine
will not likely meet global need for several years.

The Wuhan city government first publicly acknowledged
cases of pneumonia of an unknown cause on December 31,
2019, linking cases to a local seafood market that sold live
animals. Chinese authorities did not confirm that the virus
was spreading from person-to-person until January 20,
2020, however, and before then reprimanded medical
workers who sought to warn colleagues about the dangers
of infection. The Trump Administration has been sharply
critical of China's early response to the outbreak. On June
1, 2020, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo alleged that
China's ruling Communist Party continued to hide and
obfuscate and delay the global response to the pandemic.
After January 20, Chinese authorities began taking
aggressive actions to contain the epidemic, including
painstaking efforts to find cases, isolate them, and trace
their close contacts, plus applying broad restrictions on
movement. Reported infections peaked in late January.
China says that it has now controlled spread of the virus. It
has reported a cumulative 84,641 confirmed cases and
4,645 deaths.


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