by Art and Maura Keene
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. The virus has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). A pandemic is declared when a new disease for which people do not have immunity spreads around the world beyond expectations. As of Friday, March 13, according to Johns Hopkins University there were 137,445 confirmed cases worldwide and more than 5,088 confirmed deaths. The number of documented cases in the USA exceeds 1000 and 50 people have died. There are currently no cases of COVID-19 reported in Hampshire County though cases have been documented in Boston and in the Berkshires. There are currently 123 cases in Boston and nine cases in the Berkshires. Numbers of reported cases change daily. (see below – How Bad Will It Get?). Figures for the US are considered highly unreliable because there has been so little testing across the nation and at this writing, test kits remain widely unavailable. On Friday afternoon, President Trump declared the COVID-19 outbreak a national emergency, which will make $50 billion available to address the emergency and will ideally, greatly expand the availability of testing.
There is currently no vaccine available for the COVID-19 and development of one is expected to take 12-18 months. The incubation period for the virus is 5-14 days, and it can be spread by people who are asymptomatic. Symptons include fever, dry cough and headache. The virus is reported to remain viable on some surfaces for up to three days. Most vulnerable to this disease are the elderly, people with underlying medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, asthma) and people who are immunosuppressed.
UPDATE: SATURDAY MARCH 14, 2020.
FIRST PRESUMED CASE REPORTED IN AMHERST
Amherst School Superintendent Michael Morris reported the first presumed case of COVID-19 in Amherst in an email to the school community on Saturday morning.
And, there are 24 suspected cases being treated at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.
The text of Morris’ email follows.
Dear ARPS Community:
Today the local Boards of Health were notified that a parent/guardian of a student at Amherst Regional High School has been diagnosed as presumptive positive for COVID-19. No additional steps have been recommended for us to take at this time since the schools have already been closed for the next two weeks with plans to complete enhanced cleaning during that time.
We understand that families may have questions about this diagnosis and how it may impact them. For additional information, you may contact Julie Federman, Health Director, from the Amherst Board of Health at 413-259-3077 or Jill Conselino, ARPS Nurse Manager, at 362-1806.
Michael Morris, Superintendent