At this point, it goes without saying that coronavirus has shaken up all of our day-to-day lives. So far, the virus has spread across six continents, and the threat is growing across the UK, the US and Australia.
Stay up to date with our guide to the latest coronavirus guidance and developments.
What is coronavirus?
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that started in animals and is now being transmitted between humans. The symptoms include coughs, fever, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. First identified in Wuhan, China, the virus has (as of April 17) affected more than 3.1 million people in 185 countries. More than 227,000 have died, while around 972,000 have already recovered.
How bad is coronavirus?
Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine (yet), and recovery depends on the strength of the immune system. In severe cases the virus may cause pneumonia and/or organ failure.
Compared to SARS (another coronavirus that hit headlines in 2003), the mortality rate of COVID-19 is low: around 3.4 percent according to the latest World Health Organisation estimate. This is, however, significantly higher than regular seasonal flu, which is fatal in around 0.1 percent of cases. So far, COVID-19 also appears to be more contagious than seasonal flu.
The elderly and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease are most likely to develop a severe illness relating to COVID-19. The death rate is ten times higher among the very elderly compared with the middle-aged, according to the WHO. Children are less likely to be affected.
What's happening in Chicago specifically?
The state of Illinois has been under a "stay at home" order since March 21 (with the latest extension lasting through May 30), asking all residents to remain in their residences whenever possible.
You can still visit grocery stores, order food for pick-up from local restaurants and go for a walk, but most non-essential businesses (like hair salons, retail stores and malls) are closed. Find more details about the "stay at home" order here.
The latest extension of the Illinois "stay-at-home" order, which begins on May 1, requires that any individual who is over age 2 and able to medically tolerate a face covering cover their nose and mouth when in a public place and unable to maintain a six-foot social distance. If you still have questions about when exactly you need to wear a face covering, we've got some answers.
Which countries have been worst hit by coronavirus?
There have been serious outbreaks in the US, Italy, Spain, China, Germany, France, Iran, the UK, Switzerland, Turkey, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and South Korea. You can keep track of the spread of the disease on this map created by Johns Hopkins University. The WHO advises against traveling to areas experiencing ongoing transmission of COVID-19.
Generally, you should stay indoors and avoid contact with other people if you have traveled to certain countries in the last two weeks; to check the current COVID-19 measures and travel guidelines for the U.S., check here.
How will coronavirus affect my day-to-day life?
First: don’t panic.
The spread of the virus outside China wasn’t unexpected, and governments have been sharing information and regularly updating advice.
The CDC recommends avoiding close contact with people who are unwell, creating distance between yourself and others (at least six feet) and wearing a face covering if COVID-19 is spreading through your community. If you are mildly ill and think you may have the virus, then you can recover at home. Only leave to get medical care or get tested (anyone with symptoms is eligible to receive a test in Illinois)—call ahead before your appointment to make sure the doctor or hospital can prepare.
Should I avoid travelling because of coronavirus?
The CDC is advising against all non-essential travel to an increasing number of countries because of COVID-19.