What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

Nations around the world reacted with alarm to news that President Donald Trump put a halt to American payments to the World Health Organization, pending a review of its warnings about the coronavirus and China. Health experts warned the move could jeopardize global efforts to stop the coronavirus pandemic.

In explaining the decision, Trump blamed the WHO for not doing enough to stop the virus and for being too lenient on China.

Here are some of AP’s top stories Wednesday on the world’s coronavirus pandemic. Follow APNews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates through the day and APNews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak for stories explaining some of its complexities.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:

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— An investigation by The Associated Press has found that six days of delays by China — from Jan. 14 to Jan. 20 — in alerting the public to the growing dangers of the virus set the stage for a pandemic that has upended the lives of millions, sideswiped the global economy and cost nearly 127,000 lives.

— The European Union moved Wednesday to head off a chaotic and potentially disastrous easing of restrictions that are limiting the spread of the coronavirus, warning its 27 nations to move cautiously as they return to normal life and base their actions on scientific advice. In the U.S., Trump said he’s enlisting advisers from nearly all sectors of American commerce, the medical field and elected office to help shape his plans to reopen the economy.

— As countries around the world edge toward ending lockdowns and restarting their economies and societies, citizens are being more closely monitored. The challenge is achieving the tricky balance between limiting the spread of disease and allowing people freedom to move outside their homes.

— A leap in U.S. unemployment has thrown a spotlight on one type of work in high demand during the coronavirus pandemic: Gig work delivering groceries, meals and packages. But those jobs also come with the risk of exposure to the virus, which has killed more than 22,000 in the U.S. And most such jobs come with little to no access to benefits like health insurance and paid sick leave.

— The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is pledging an additional $150 million in grant funding to help fight the coronavirus outbreak with diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

— Efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus may be choking Africa’s already vulnerable food supply. Lockdowns in at least 33 of Africa’s 54 countries have blocked farmers from getting food to markets and threatened deliveries of food assistance to rural populations. Many informal markets where millions buy their food are shut.

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

Here are the symptoms of the virus compared with the common flu.

One of the best ways to prevent spread of the virus is washing your hands with soap and water. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends first washing with warm or cold water and then lathering soap for 20 seconds to get it on the backs of hands, between fingers and under fingernails before rinsing off.

You should wash your phone, too. Here’s how.

TRACKING THE VIRUS: Drill down and zoom in at the individual county level, and you can access numbers that will show you the situation where you are, and where loved ones or people you’re worried about live.

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ONE NUMBER:

— 8.7%: U.S. retail sales plummeted 8.7% in March, an unprecedented decline, as the viral outbreak forced an almost complete lockdown of commerce nationwide.

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IN OTHER NEWS:

— HOME BAKERS: With millions of people across the globe stuck at home due to lockdown measures imposed during the coronavirus pandemic, many people are choosing to make their own bread, rather than venturing to the local store to buy their weekly fix.

— ALOHA MASKS: Face masks made with the same colorful prints used for aloha shirts — known as “Hawaiian shirts” elsewhere in the United States — are the latest fashion trend in Hawaii as islanders try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

— POST-PANDEMIC PTSD?: A Boston Marathon bombing survivor talks about his own journey back to mental health, the importance of self-care, and the anxiety, depression and trauma some may be struggling with as the pandemic wears people down.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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