It’s been two years since the beginning of the pandemic.
Isolation could make you feel like that. On this day in 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Since then, the international death toll has surpassed 6 million people — including more than 950,000 people in the US. And while there are a lot of unknowns about the virus, the world has worked to fight it through vaccines and antivirals. Here’s where things stand two years on with:
Variants: Since 2020, we've been hit with a series of concerning variants, including Alpha, Delta, and most recently Omicron. The latest, fast-spreading variant led to the highest peak in US daily cases since the beginning of the pandemic — and pushed some hospitals to capacity. Now, the US is nearing its lowest number of new cases since last summer. But is still averaging over 1,500 deaths per day.
Vaccines: More than 65% of the US population is fully vaccinated. With boosters, vaccines remain over 90% effective against hospitalization and death. But they’ve proven less effective at preventing infection. Antiviral pills are another line of defense. Meanwhile, restrictions — like mask and vaccine mandates — have faced protests. In the US, Republican states have gone months with few to no restrictions. Since then, Dem states have started to follow suit. But masks are still a must in some places, including airplanes and some schools.
The economy: has changed. The pandemic threw supply chains for a loop. Think: backed-up cargo ships, empty grocery shelves, and more. Many companies told their employees to trade in their sweats for business attire. And women were especially impacted. Some were hit by a ‘shecession’ because they worked in hospitality, others because they couldn't find affordable childcare. More than 5 million women lost their jobs, with unemployment rates higher for women of color. Now, many companies are bringing employees back to the office — to mixed reviews.
Some world leaders see COVID-19 as here to stay. One poll shows 70% of Americans agree — and believe we need to “get on with our lives.” But some, including those with chronic illnesses and young children, feel left behind. It comes as a new study shows that even people who experienced milder cases of COVID-19 may have experienced subtle damage to brain tissue.
It’s been two years since the pandemic turned the world upside down. Now, with vaccines and other tools, some are trying to get back to ‘normal.’ Whatever that means. But many are still trying to find their footing.
PS: In the last two years, many of us have experienced unprecedented kinds of loss. If you’re struggling to cope, you’re not alone. We gathered tips from grief experts here.
Yesterday, the Senate passed a $1.5 trillion spending bill one day before a looming government shutdown. It will keep the government funded through the end of Sept. But one main part of the budget would provide $13.6 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine:
The breakdown: Less than half of the $13.6 billion will go toward the US Dept of Defense. That budget will cover expenses for US troops in Europe and replenishing US equipment sent to Ukraine. The remainder of that money will go toward things like humanitarian efforts, energy, and cyber security.
Where things stand: Hundreds of thousands of civilians are still trapped in Ukraine. And are left without basic necessities like food and water, as Russian forces ramp up their attacks on cities. Want to help? We've got some verified sources.
The 2020 census. On Thursday, the bureau said it undercounted the country’s population by 18.8 million people — many of them Black, Hispanic, or Native American. And that non-Hispanic white Americans and Asian Americans were overcounted during the once-a-decade national population count. The bureau says the census results are “fit for many uses in decision-making.” But that it will look into the miscount. Here’s what census data affects:
Representation: The census determines the number of House seats in each state. And with all the controversy over redrawn maps and allegations of gerrymandering, there are concerns that some minorities could be underrepresented.
Funding: Census data also determines the amount of federal funding that will go into your local gov on everything from hospitals to schools. So an undercount could lead to fewer resources for those who are already marginalized.
Inflation. Over the past year, the Consumer Price Index jumped 7.9%. Important, since the CPI measures the average price of things like food, clothes, and housing. The jump is the highest in 40 years — with gas, food, and housing seeing the biggest price increases. Note: that doesn’t even include the gas hikes we’ve seen since the invasion of Ukraine. Now, the Fed is eyeing interest rate hikes to cool things down. FYI, you’re not alone if this news is stressing you out.
PS: We Skimm'd why prices are going up and tips for how to work them into your budget.
The MLB. Yesterday, owners and the players’ association reached a collective bargaining agreement — ending a 99-day-long lockout. The two sides have been negotiating after talks failed earlier this month. Players have been pushing for a better payment structure. Now, this agreement ends the first major disruption to baseball in almost 30 years. Opening Day was originally scheduled for March 31. Now, it’s taking place on April 7 with 162 scheduled games.
Jussie Smollett. Yesterday, the former “Empire” actor was sentenced to 150 days in jail. In 2019, Smollett claimed he was the victim of a hate crime in Chicago — something authorities say he staged. Smollett maintains his innocence, but a court disagreed.
Skimm’d by Rashaan Ayesh, Kate Gilhool, Julie Shain, and Mariza Smajlaj
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