Coronavirus chronicles: Here's some good news amid the dire reports
From vaccine progress to people uniting in friendship and solidarity, some positive COVID-19 news to keep things in perspective.
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Right now the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 are all anyone can talk about. You're not alone if you feel overwhelmed or find yourself focusing on worst-case scenarios. So let's take a second, breathe deep and look at some of the positive things going on in these strange times.
Follow the advice of your local authority to minimize your chances of getting or spreading the virus, in particular by washing your hands regularly, not touching your face and avoiding non-essential trips outside your home. If you're in any doubt, the impact of these measures is clear: in countries that have acted fast and taken social distancing seriously, the spread of the virus has been dramatically slowed or even contained.
Researchers have a head start as the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen is similar to coronaviruses we've encountered before, including the SARS virus that struck in 2002.
Clinical trials of potential vaccines are underway in China, testing methods of stimulating our immune system to fight the virus.
The first US clinical trials for a potential vaccine have begun in Seattle. Biotech company Moderna has taken a piece of the genetic code for the pathogen's S protein -- the part that's present in other coronaviruses, like SARS -- and fused it with fatty nanoparticles which can be injected into the body.
Imperial College London is designing a similar vaccine using coronavirus RNA, its genetic code.
Pennsylvania biotech company Inovio is generating strands of DNA it hopes will stimulate an immune response.
Johnson & Johnson and French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi are both working with the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to develop vaccines. Sanofi's plan is to mix coronavirus DNA with genetic material from a harmless virus, while Johnson & Johnson will attempt to deactivate SARS-CoV-2 and switch off its ability to cause illness.
In the meantime, existing antiviral drugs may have an effect on the new coronavirus, such as remdesivir or the anti-flu drug favipiravir.
Formula 1 racing engineers at Mercedes have joined forces with University College London to develop a breathing device that can be used instead of taking patients to intensive care and placing them on a ventilator.
Watch this: Coronavirus lockdown: Why social distancing saves lives
People do recover
Around the world, as many as half a million people are recovering from the infection. Often this is thanks to the hard work of medical staff and the people who support them.
Doctors in India have reported success in treating infected patients with a mixture of drugs usually used to tackle HIV, swine flu and malaria.
In China and Japan, doctors have had promising results using blood plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 to treat newly infected patients. This well-established medical technique could even be used to boost the immunity of people who are at risk of catching the disease.
Vint Cerf, who is 76, tweeted on April 3: "Good news - VA Public Health has certified my wife and me as no longer contagious with COVID19. Recovering!" Cerf, who is known as the "father of the internet," tweeted on March 30 that he had tested positive for the coronavirus and was "recovering." (Note: Cerf's account on Twitter isn't verified, but a CNET staffer who has been following Cerf for years vouched for the account.)
Newer, faster tests are also being developed around the world. With all this medical research, we're understanding the virus better and learning how to deal with it.
On March 27, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for a new test from Abbott Laboratories that can deliver coronavirus results in as soon as five minutes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has started testing for antibodies to see if healthy people previously had the coronavirus, The New York Times reported on April 4. The tests could help the agency better understand the virus and its spread, indicating how prevalent the virus has been and whether a significant number of people have had it without actually getting sick, the Times said.
The environment is getting a break
The slowdown in production, transportation and sales is having a huge impact on the economy and on the finances of workers. But one side effect of the reduction in manufacturing and vehicle traffic is a reduction in pollution.
China's lockdown led to a 25 percent decrease in CO2 emissions when compared with the same period in 2019.
Researcher Marshall Burke from Stanford University calculated that the reduction in emissions in China in January and February could save as many as 77,000 lives. To put that number into context, that's more than 20 times the number of people who died from coronavirus in that time.
Animals and wildlife are making the most of quiet streets, parks and beaches. Among them are Thailand's rare leatherback turtles, which have built more nests on the quiet shores than at any time in the past 20 years.
Support is available
As people stay away from work and many businesses close their doors temporarily, we all face uncertainty and stress. Governments have pledged to support citizens and businesses with subsidies, loans, suspensions of tax and rent, and other measures. These are some of the initial measures being taken around the world that may ease your mind, or inspire you to contact your representative to press for more help.
Australia is paying AU$750 (around $445 or £380) to all citizens on a lower income, and offering loans to small and medium-sized businesses.
Denmark is subsidizing 75% of workers' salaries.
France has promised no company will be allowed to fail as a result of the pandemic, freezing tax and rent payments for small businesses and expanding the welfare system for workers.
Germany has pledged at least 500 billion euros ($550 billion) in loan guarantees.
Italy has promised help for families and one-off 500 euro payments to self-employed people.
Spain has announced a 200 billion euro rescue package in loans for small businesses, and is freezing mortgages and utility bills for individuals.
Sweden is subsidizing 90% of workers' salaries if they're affected by coronavirus.
The UK is guaranteeing 80% of workers' salaries and providing limited sick pay to those who are self-employed.
The US has passed legislation to give $1,200 to most American adults and $500 to most children, as part of a stimulus package that also includes loans to business and local and state governments, funds for hospitals and more unemployment insurance. Also, you also have extra time to file your tax return because Tax Day has been moved to July 15.
Uplifting scenes of coronavirus solidarity around the world
If we're going to get through this, it'll be because we all came together and helped each other. Many people are finding ways to bring out the best in ourselves and our communities, resisting misinformation and divisiveness.
Many have joined volunteer mutual aid groups to support the vulnerable in their own community. When the UK government called for volunteers, over a quarter of a million people signed up in a single day.
People and businesses are creating online resources to help ease the tension and inconvenience of quarantine, many of them free or discounted.
99-year-old British army veteran Captain Tom Moore set out to walk a hundred laps of his garden by his 100th birthday to raise money for NHS Charities Together -- and has now raised over £27 million (more than $33 million or AU$51 million).