The coronavirus is a severe and contagious respiratory disease. While the location of the first outbreak is unknown, the first reported case was confirmed in Wuhan, China. Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, loss of taste and smell, and fatigue. One-third of people who are infected with the virus remain asymptomatic and do not develop any noticeable symptoms, although they can still spread the virus. The spread of the coronavirus has led to a worldwide, ongoing pandemic. On Feb. 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially named the disease “COVID-19,” short for coronavirus disease 2019. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that more than 95% of patients who contract the virus recover. However, people at greater risk from COVID-19 are those with underlying conditions such as weakened immune system, heart or lung problems, and severe obesity, as well as the elderly. 

The coronavirus mainly spreads from person to person through the respiratory tract. The virus can enter the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth after an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or breathes. Coronavirus symptoms appear six to 14 days after it enters the body, the earliest being the loss of smell or taste, followed by a dry cough and fever. Long-term effects of the virus include permanent damage to the lungs and heart, post-viral fatigue, and continued loss of smell and taste. In the United States, over 26 million confirmed cases have been reported since January 2020, resulting in over 400,000 deaths. Former President Donald Trump declared the U.S. outbreak a public health emergency, although the initial U.S. reaction to the coronavirus pandemic was slow. Government officials issued stay-at-home orders in order to contain and stop the spread of the coronavirus. Other state and local responses to the outbreak included the cancellation of large gatherings, such as concerts and festivals, and school closures. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of masks was employed as a health control measure against the spread. In the U.S., state economic reopenings began in May 2020, although the lack of widespread mask orders resulted in a sharp rise in cases across most of the country outside northeast. The United States had a slow start for COVID-19 testing, with drive-through testing officially launching in March 2020. The test is typically done on respiratory samples obtained through a nasal swab, and results are generally available within hours to two days. During this period, hospitals were reporting a shortage in medical equipment, including masks, gloves, gowns, and sanitizing products. Hospitals soon began to be overwhelmed with patients, and some facilities were forced to refuse new ones or transfer others out. In December 2020, multiple variants of the coronavirus were reported; the first case surfaced in the United Kingdom.

Public response to the COVID-19 lockdowns was varied. There were protests in several U.S. states against government-imposed lockdowns. The protesters, mostly organized by conservative groups, demanded that their respective states reopen for normal business. The coronavirus outbreak prompted calls for the United States to adopt policies common in other wealthy countries, including universal health care.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been increased urgency around the development of a vaccine intended to provide immunity against the infectious disease.  As of January 2021, 64.02 million doses of the multiple vaccines had been administered worldwide. Most recently, President Joe Biden has released a 200-page policy to mitigate the public health crisis as a result of the coronavirus. 

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