- Texas has temporarily halted the state’s reopening amid a surge in coronavirus infections
- Scientists are only starting to grasp the vast array of health problems caused by the novel coronavirus
- Toilet paper hoarding is back in Australia’s supermarket chains
Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Texas pauses reopening
The governor of Texas temporarily halted the state’s reopening as Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations surged and the United States set a record for a one-day increase in cases.
Texas’ rising numbers are part of a nationwide resurgence reported in states that were spared the brunt of the initial outbreak or moved early to lift restrictions on residents and businesses.
While some of the increased numbers of cases can be attributed to more testing, the percentage of positive results is also climbing.
The focus of the pandemic has moved to the US West and South, including more sparsely populated rural areas, from the early epicentre around New York in the east where more than 31 000 deaths have been recorded.
The many health problems caused by Covid-19
Scientists are only starting to grasp the vast array of health problems caused by the novel coronavirus, some of which may have lingering effects on patients and health systems for years to come, doctors and infectious disease experts say.
Besides the respiratory issues that leave patients gasping for breath, the virus that causes Covid-19 attacks many organ systems, in some cases causing catastrophic damage.
“We thought this was only a respiratory virus. Turns out, it goes after the pancreas. It goes after the heart. It goes after the liver, the brain, the kidney and other organs. We didn’t appreciate that in the beginning,” said Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California.
Recovery can be slow, incomplete and costly, with a huge impact on quality of life.
The battle to tame seasonal flu
As South America’s winter sets in, health officials and doctors are beefing up inoculation programs to head off a potential spike in seasonal flu that could overwhelm hospitals already straining under the coronavirus pandemic.
Coupled with regional lockdowns, the inoculation drive has so far helped keep rates of seasonal respiratory disease low, even as cases of Covid-19 rise, according to doctors and recent government data.
Health workers and officials in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay said efforts to curb seasonal flu were key to supporting regional hospitals, with Latin America now on the front lines of the global battle against Covid-19.
Toilet paper hoarding is back
Australia’s supermarket chains reintroduced purchase limits on toilet paper and other household items as a spike in coronavirus cases in the state of Victoria set off a fresh round of panic-buying over fears of a new stay-at-home order.
Woolworths and Coles, which together account for two-thirds of Australian grocery sales, said they were once again limiting purchases of toilet roll and paper towels to one or two packs per person after photos circulated on social media showing empty shelves in stores.
The buying restrictions – and images of stripped shelves – recall Australia’s initial response to the arrival of COVID-19 when shoppers stockpiled household goods in anticipation of a protracted shutdown.
“Connected” face mask for the new normal
As face coverings become the norm during the coronavirus pandemic, Japanese startup Donut Robotics has developed an internet-connected “smart mask” that can transmit messages and translate from Japanese into eight other languages.
The white plastic “c-mask” fits over standard face masks and connects via Bluetooth to a smartphone and tablet application that can transcribe speech into text messages, make calls, or amplify the mask wearer’s voice.
Donut Robotics’ engineers came up with the idea for the mask as they searched for a product to help the company survive the pandemic. When the coronavirus struck, it had just secured a contract to supply robot guides and translators to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, a product that faces an uncertain future after the collapse of air travel.