Special Report: Fighting the Virus

Regaining some sense of normalcy will take safe and effective treatments and a vaccine, along with testing and contact-tracing systems

Less than six months ago, news broke that a mysterious pneumonia was sweeping through a city in China. For many of us in the United States, the danger seemed too distant for concern. People continued to fly, gather for family events and conferences — and set off on cruise ships. Within a month, though, the new coronavirus, eventually named SARS-CoV-2, had crossed borders to at least 19 countries, including the United States. By March 17, the virus was in all 50 states. Nine days later, the United States had more active infections than hard-hit Italy and China.

In many countries, schools closed and moved classes online, businesses were shuttered and people were ordered to stay home. Overwhelmed hospitals, caught short on supplies, went searching for ventilators and personal protective gear. People died; others feared for their lives and their livelihoods. As the virus spread, scientists raced to figure out how the pathogen attacks and how it might be tamed. The work continues, but the public is understandably impatient.

This special report investigates what it will take to regain some sense of normalcy. It’s going to take safe and effective treatments and a vaccine, along with testing and contact-tracing systems. The stress of the pandemic and all the uncertainty can mess with our brains, but we might need to get used to it. As George F. Gao, director general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, says: “We’ve got to dance with the virus.” — Cori Vanchieri

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