It’s the third week of January, 2021, and here in the U.S. we’re 10 months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s take stock of where we’re at.
Globally, about one-fourth of all COVID-19 cases have been in the U.S. More than 24.5 million people have had COVID-19 here, and more than 408,000 people have died. Those numbers are currently rising dramatically and by the time you read this, they’ll be even higher. See up-to-date coronavirus statistics from Johns Hopkins University.
Coronavirus counts are the highest they’ve been in the U.S. since the pandemic was declared in March 2020. The numbers of both pandemic cases and deaths due to the virus are surging almost everywhere in the country.
The CDC says we may be significantly undercounting coronavirus-related deaths, too. Last year, nearly 300,000 more people died in the U.S. from January to October than in previous years, and the CDC says it’s unclear to what extent they represent “misclassified COVID-19 deaths or deaths indirectly related to the pandemic” (because of disruptions in health care access or utilization; for example, someone with heart attack symptoms who delays seeking emergency care because they are worried about exposure to disease ).
Scientists also say a new variant of coronavirus, called B.1.1.7 and first found in England, has now been found in at least nine U.S. states. While they say it doesn’t seem deadlier, they think it’s up to 70% more transmissible.
How have we gotten to this point?
Lack of coordinated oversight
Researching the federal government’s coronavirus response, the Brookings Institution found “insufficient preparation and capacity, … coordination, slowness, and regulatory failures, among many other factors.” The report, dated March 31, 2020, cited “massive failures of judgment and inaction” in January, February, and March 2020.
Without coordinated federal oversight in such areas as consistent funding, supplies, messaging, and other assistance, governors, mayors, and local health departments had to piece together guidelines about procedures such as mask mandates and how to administer the funding they did receive from state and federal governments. Without standardization, results were wildly uneven.
In February 2020, the World Health Organization rolled out hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 tests, but the U.S. decided to develop its own tests instead. The resulting CDC-designed coronavirus test proved faulty, so during that critical period, it was difficult to test people for disease. There have also been supply chain problems with some of the supplies needed for testing.
While testing is more readily available now, not everyone understands that one can receive a negative test result yet still have COVID-19. The virus’s 14-day incubation period means a test taken too soon can return a negative result. Also, a coronavirus test only captures one’s status at a particular moment. Someone testing negative can walk out of the testing site and immediately be exposed to, and become sick with, coronavirus.
A confusing mishmash of guidelines
Without the benefit of federal guidance, state and local governments have issued their own stay-at-home orders. In some cases, rules sowed confusion, such as when local guidelines were more restrictive than state ones. Some people were unclear on the definitions of stay-at-home orders, self-quarantining, and isolating.
- A stay-at-home order means only going out for essential activities, such as a medical appointment or picking up medication or supplies; buying groceries and other essential supplies; caring for a family member or pet in another household; getting social-distanced outdoor activity; or performing work at an essential business such as in healthcare, a grocery store, or law enforcement.
- The CDC recommends four days of self-quarantine—keeping away from all others—after a person is exposed to COVID.
- Isolation applies when someone has coronavirus, and isolating can be done at a hospital or at home. It means having a designated bedroom and bathroom that only the patient uses, if possible, so others don’t get sick.
Not enough contact tracing
Contact tracing is a critical part of preventing the spread of pandemic. It refers to identifying and following up with people who’ve been in close contact with an infected person. The CDC defines close contact as being within six feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more.
There are several benefits to contract tracing. It lets people know they may have been exposed and should monitor their health for symptoms, alerts them to get tested, and advises people to self-isolate or self-quarantine when appropriate.
COVID-19 vaccines were approved and first administered in the U.S. in December 2020, but the vaccine rollout has been much slower than hoped. While President Trump predicted 20 million people would be vaccinated by the end of 2020, only around 6 million people have gotten their first of two doses as of January.
Problems have included those of storage—the vaccines need to be stored in a freezer—and the challenge of distribution to massive numbers of people by health departments that are already overburdened.
Opun brings together solutions—all in one place
Opun is a pandemic lifecycle management system that addresses pandemic-related challenges all in one place. It makes guidelines clear and easy to reference, offers social distancing alerts, provides exposure notification, and more.
A government or other organization can easily load all its guidelines, testing information, and other information there, carefully defining all terms and explaining all requirements in one place. Likewise, an individual can use the Opun app to look up anything they need to know about COVID-19, testing, guidelines, and more. The app’s goal is to help social and economic activities resume safely and efficiently.
While Opun was created for use by everyone, its users fall into four groups:
- Government organizations at any level. Governing entities, public health officials, and testing agencies use Opun to consolidate all their behavioral and operational standards, guidelines, and practices in one easy-to-reference app.
- Businesses. Small or large, for-profit or non-profit organizations, including universities, enterprises, and others, use the app to publish their guidelines, build trust and confidence among their employees, partners, and customers, and get their businesses back up and running.
- Healthcare providers. Health insurance companies, healthcare groups, and healthcare providers offering testing or vaccination.
- Individuals. People can use the app to check official guidelines, receive social distancing alerts, and for exposure notification, among other benefits that let them take informed action.
Read more about Opun or request a demo.