Around the end of December 2019 and beginning of January 2020, the initial reports of a pneumonia like illness was quickly spreading throughout Wuhan, China which started to get international attention. No one quite knew what was happening in China or the severity of the issue due to lack of transparency and communications. However, it soon became apparent there was a new virus that was spreading throughout the Hubei province (includes Wuhan) and this new strain of virus was known as the Coronavirus (officially renamed to Covid-19). The virus began as patients getting flu like symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, sweats/chills, etc.) but progressed to severe respiratory complications that led to some deaths. Many people who have died from Covid-19 are of elderly age, immunocompromised or had preexisting respiratory and health problems. However, the real concern with Covid-19 was how contagious it was. The amount of people contracting Covid-19 was growing exponentially which was extremely frightening.
Covid-19 was initially contained to Hubei province but quickly spread worldwide. China's confirmed cases by mid-March was about ~80,000 cases with ~3,200 deaths and many of the cases where contained in Wuhan, China. By the end of March, China was able to contain the number of confirmed cases to ~81,000 and ~3,200 deaths due to government action of quarantine and shutting down parts of the country.
Covid-19 did spread internationally with South Korea having the second largest number of infected people outside of China by the end of February. On February 20th, South Korea announced its first death due to the Covid-19 and by the end of February 2020, South Korea had ~1,000 confirmed cases with multiple deaths. Around mid-March, South Korea had about ~7,800 confirmed cases with ~65 deaths and by the end of March, there were ~9,000 confirmed cases and ~100 deaths. South Korea by international standards were considered one of the top countries in handling Covid-19. The South Korean government attributes much of the reason to public/government transparency and quick government action at the beginning of the outbreak. South Korea was one of the few countries that were testing citizens daily and on a massive scale, by the end of March 2020, South Korea had tested more than ~310,000 citizens which was double of other countries.
In the United States, the infectious rate rapidly increased at an alarming speed. On 3/01/2020, the United States had ~100 confirmed cases and ~10 deaths but by 3/22/2020, the United States had ~33,000 confirmed cases and ~400 deaths. By the end of March 2020, the only countries that had more confirmed cases than the United States were Italy, and China. Italy had ~60,000 confirmed cases with ~5,500 deaths and China was stable at ~81,000 confirmed cases and ~3,200 deaths. By 04/12/2020 (Easter Sunday), the United States had over ~560,000 confirmed cases with ~22,000 deaths (New York State alone had about ~190,000 confirmed cases and ~10,000 deaths). The United States officially had more than two times the amount of cases as the next highest infected country which was Spain (~168,000 confirmed cases and ~17,000 deaths).
Initially, when Covid-19 was breaking out, I did not think much about the disease and its impact on the United States because it seemed to only be severe in Asian and Europe, however, as time went on, Covid-19 rapidly spread throughout the United States. This led me to think what the impact of Covid-19 would have on the Fulbright program. I read about the current Fulbrighters in South Korea (2019-2020) that were told to evacuate due to the outbreak. There were other study abroad programs, scholarship programs, Peace Corp programs, etc. that were pulling their students out of the countries and sending them back to the United States. I also found out many summer programs like other scholarship/fellowship programs (Boren, Gilman, etc.) for 2020 had been either cancelled, postponed, or changed due to the virus pandemic. Currently, Fulbright has not said anything about canceling the entire Fulbright South Korea program for 2020-2021, but it still is a possibility. I guess more waiting is needed to figure out what is going to happen.