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Wednesday, May 5, 2020

Pandemics travel with people. When people traveled slowly, so did disease. Cholera, for example, was endemic only in Bengal until 1817, when it attacked a British army. In 1820, British troops carried the disease to the Persian Gulf. From 1821-24 cholera took the slave trade and caravan routes. The California Gold Rush of 1849 and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 accelerated the spread. Cholera took about fifty years to cover the world. It is still a major health threat in many places.

COVID-19 took 2 1/2 months.

CDC Global map of COVID-19 spread as of Feb. 22, 2020

Here’s a quick timeline:

  • Dec. 31, 2019. China reports 42 patients with an unknown pneumonia.
  • Jan. 7, 2020. China identifies the new (novel) coronavirus
  • Jan. 13. A case is identified in Thailand.
  • Jan. 20. WHO reports cases in Thailand, Japan, and South Korea.
  • Jan. 21. U.S. reports a case in Washington state.
  • Jan. 31. WHO declares a global emergency with cases in 18 countries outside China.
  • Feb. 11. The novel coronavirus is officially named severe acute respiratory syndrom coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and the disease it causes is named COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019).
  • Feb. 14. First case in France. First case in Egypt, which is the first on the African continent.
  • Feb. 19. Outbreak in Iran.
  • Feb. 26. First case in Brazil which is the first in Latin America.
  • March 3. Sharp increase in Spain.
  • March 8. Italy on lockdown.
  • March 11. WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic

The dates in bold were during the time I was in Portugal with family members. There everything seemed normal, even idyllic. We came home to a rapidly changing world. March was a time of lockdowns, event cancellations, and travel bans. April saw rising death tolls, but with cases leveling off in some locations and, in the face of economic hardship for many, increased discussion of reopening.

St. Helena taken by NASA Expedition 19 crew

The few places with no reported cases of COVID-19 (other than North Korea) are mainly islands, such as American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Christmas Island, and Pitcairn. Oh, yes, and St. Helena. Napoleon would have been safe.

Today’s Notable Headlines

“The last places on earth without coronavirus,” Reuters, Updated May 1, 2020. https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/TRANSMISSION-STATUS/azgpombyxpd/

“Study suggests coronavirus spread swiftly around world in late 2019,” Reuters, May 6, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-evolution/study-suggests-coronavirus-spread-swiftly-around-world-in-late-2019-idUSKBN22I1E3

” ‘1st Time To See It Like This’: Petra Tourism Workers Long for Visitors To Return.” NPR. May 6, 2020. https://www.npr.org/2020/05/06/850157824/1st-time-to-see-it-like-this-petra-tourism-workers-long-for-visitors-to-return

Article Sources:

Nomenclature: “Novel Coronavirus Officially Named,” by Kelly Young, New England Journal of Medicine, Feb. 12, 2020. https://www.jwatch.org/fw116343/2020/02/12/novel-coronavirus-officially-named

WHO Timeline: https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/27-04-2020-who-timeline—covid-19

Business Insider timeline: https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-pandemic-timeline-history-major-events-2020-3

NBC News: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/coronavirus-timeline-tracking-critical-moments-covid-19-n1154341

“Cholera’s Seven Pandemics,” CBC News, Canada, http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2008/05/09/f-cholera-outbreaks.html.

Why am I doing this?

The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. It is my intention to journal the events of these days from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary crisis.

You are on History’s Edge.

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