In the Time of Novel Coronavirus

 Pandemics have spread across the globe before, but like the novel coronavirus they always bring new challenges. The personal impact as well as the tests to businesses, the medical community and local, state and federal governments are included in readings and activities.

On April 17 the U.S. had 690,714 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus since February. On April 17 3,856 people died of covid-19. Johns Hopkins University estimates 48,000 individuals nationwide had recovered. By the time you have read this, numbers will have risen in the U.S. and around the globe.


The virus brought change to daily lives, businesses, essential services, schools and hospitals. Artists, musicians, producers of television programming and teachers utilized technology to continue communication. The proper role and responsibilities of federal, state and local government engaged the public, their lives affected even more by the actions.


The reprinted news and feature articles, graphs and photographs in this month’s curriculum guide provide a foundation for understanding the new coronavirus, a snapshot of its impact on daily life and a point from which to chart the work of essential workers, medical professionals, researchers, political leaders and media.


Journalists play an important role in informing the public of the facts of and surrounding the disease, especially as it spreads. But even in a 24/7 news cycle it is difficult to keep up with the numbers of confirmed cases, deaths and recoveries. As the medical world works on formulating vaccines and finding answers to questions of immunity and contagion, there is even more pressure to report with accuracy.


Keeping up with the unfolding progression of the covid-19 and decisions made by leaders is a challenge, especially as you have your personal life to manage. The Post has a special section for its CORONAVIRUS daily coverage, including updates, maps, graphics and photography. These resources will help you live in the time of novel coronavirus.


APRIL 17, 2020

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Review Teachers Notes
All subjects

Our Teachers Notes provides ideas for using the handouts, reprints and lesson suggestions that we provide in the curriculum guide. Additional suggestions and resources are also given. Our goal is to help you in planning how you want your students to use each Post curriculum guide.


Introduce Viruses
Health, Journalism

Understanding virus basics provides a foundation for understanding related topics such as social distancing, quarantine and vaccine development. Give students KidsPost articles: “Kids’ coronavirus questions” and “We often call a virus a bug. Does that mean it’s alive?” Both have questions and activities at the end of the articles.


The Coronavirus isn't alive. That's why it's so hard to kill” is meant for older students. Vocabulary and questions to guide reading and discussion are provided in The Virus Uses Humans to Survive, Replicate and Spread.


Other reprints in this guide and activities will build upon this foundation.


Map It
Geography, Health, Journalism, Mathematics, U.S. History, World History

Two maps from April 1, 2020, provide data and illustrate how the data from the same day might be presented using maps. The Washington Post map, “Where has it spread in the U.S.?,” uses dots, by size, representing the confirmed cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention color codes its map, States Reporting Cases of COVID-19 to CDC. Discuss the difference with students and which they find the easiest to “read.” Questions 2 and 3 in Compare and Contrast | Data Reveals Lives may be used for this. Follow this discussion with Question #4.


Keep Up with Numbers
Geography, Health, Journalism, Mathematics, U.S. History, World History

In the morning of Monday, April 6, national figures reported 9,653 people had died from coronavirus in the U.S. since Feb. 29 when a 58-year-old man near Seattle became the first announced U.S. death. At least 337,000 cases were confirmed. The numbers of deaths, confirmed cases and recoveries will continue to rise, peak and fall, especially when looking at different regions and states as well as countries. Use The Coronavirus by the Numbers to illustrate this concept. An activity to read the bar graphs is provided on the page.


Students may be guided in finding data updates using the novel coronavirus outbreak. Begin with the four sources listed below.

When using these sources, be sure to look for the date of the latest update.

• Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering provides worldwide confirmed cases, deaths and recoveries.

WHO updates that includes new cases in the last 24 hours. Also available: media resources, technical guidance and advice for public
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

More Lessons
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Create a Timeline
Health, Mathematics, Research, U.S. History, World History

There are several types of timelines for you to review with students (see Teachers Notes) and that students could create a timeline alone or in groups.


In the Compare and Contrast | Data Reveals Lives activity sheet, the second page includes a timeline with dates and graphic depiction of the deaths from pandemics. Discuss with students how it serves to give a historic perspective on our current global outbreak and a sense of human toll of pandemics. This timeline was part of The Post’s quick look, including art and photography, at how pandemics remade the world. Review “History’s deadliest pandemics, from ancient Rome to modern America.”

Students might be asked to read all descriptions, then select one to research further. They will be enabled to discuss the novel coronavirus in perspective.


Address in Song and Poetry
English, Health, Music

Before his death on March 30 from heart complications, people were singing Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me”: “Lean on me/When you’re not strong/And I’ll be your friend/I’ll help you carry on.” The reassuring lyrics captured the similar “We’re All in This Together” spirit from Disney’s High School Musical.


The epidemic of 1918 generated many songs. According to a number of sources, children were heard on playgrounds singing little lines like these:

I had a little bird/ Its name was Enza/

I opened up the window/ and in flew enza.


Poets wrote about the bubonic plague, the pestilence of yellow fever, AIDs and other diseases. Introduce students to Thomas Nashe’s “A Litany in Time of Plague,” Christina Rossetti’s “The Plague” and/or one of Shakespeare’s sonnets believed to have been written during the plague in King James I’s reign.


Discussion might include:
• What images are strikingly like current ones?
• What mood of the time of the pandemic was captured?
• What was taking place when the poem was written?


What might your students write about the current novel coronavirus? Give them the option of poetry (haiku, sonnets, found) or lyrics. Students who enjoy writing music may work together to produce a song.


Visualize Data
Career Education, Health, Journalism, Mathematics

The most-read story in Washington Post history explains how an outbreak like coronavirus spreads and what it takes to “flatten the curve.” Graphics reporter Harry Stevens created a simple way to understand why social distancing is effective.


Ask your students to watch “How to Be a Journalist Covering Coronavirus | Harry Stevens.” Discuss this approach to conveying data. 


Students may practice their world language skills when reading this graphic. Among the languages are French, Italian (Perché epidemie come il coronavirus si diffondono in modo esponenziale e come “appiattire la curva”), Spanish and Arabic.


What other ways could students visualize an aspect of the novel coronavirus, especially related to data from your community and state?

Read About Pandemics

Draw the Coronavirus
Art, Health, U.S. History, Visual Arts

Post Art and Architecture Critic Philip Kennicott took a closer look at how we visually present covid-19 in “Coronavirus is a killer. But this artist won’t reduce it to a cartoon villain.” He moves from the electron microscope image and the CDC’s computer-graphics image to the work of David Goodsell, a professor of computational biology. Readers learn more about the virus’ structure and color. Summarize and discuss Kennicott’s content.


Students might be asked to collect representations of the novel coronavirus found in PSAs, advertisements, newscasts and other media. Discussion of the works might include:
• Which have stylized features?
• How has color been used?
• Typeface, media, message and audience influence the form used. Are they effective in this work?

Students may be asked to draw their interpretation of the coronavirus. What feature is consistent in images? Colors used? Mood?


Alter the Classic
Art, Health, Visual Arts

Michael Cavna, writer/artist for The Post’s Comic Riffs, presented a survey of ways artists’ works are being digitally altered. Read and discuss “ ‘The Girl With a Purell Earring’: How artists are tweakingfamous paintings for our coronavirus era”


Teachers may wish to show students the original works. Ask students to brainstorm ways they might alter the images to present current behavior, concerns and technology.


What Would You Do?
Ethics, Health, Social Studies,

Five scenarios based on real situations are provided for students to consider what they would do, either as one of the stakeholders or as themselves. They cover survival of the poor in an international setting; provision for students who qualified for free-and-reduced-price meals and children of unemployed parents; observance of one’s religious and cultural practices; decisions when ventilators and other medical needs are limited or depleted; and the debate over the safe time to open businesses or maintain social distancing.


Teachers and students are provided a list of Post articles that could be read for more information and points of view on each of these issues.


After conducting the What Would You Do? activity, teachers might ask students to discuss other areas of concern. Do some reading and then write a scenario with different stakeholders.



It’s the Economy
Business, Economy, Health, Social Studies, U.S. History

When positive or confirmed cases of coronavirus and deaths rose, social distancing mandates evolved into closed businesses — except those that are essential — and unemployment. Before asking students to read about measures taken by the Federal Reserve and Congress to address personal and business issues, teachers might begin with an article and a video. They both give a face to and address health, rural vs. urban, and business/economic concerns:

• “Rural America’s plea: Urban covid-19 refugees, stay home” and

• Video voiced by a rural hospital administrator


There are many entry points to addressing business and economic issues in the midst of the pandemic. Teachers may ask students to research the role of the Federal Reserve, stimulus checks or the $2 trillion virus bill — its provisions, its success and its shortcomings. In another approach, students might work in groups, each with a different one of the following articles:

• “Undocumented workers among those hit first — and worst — by the coronavirus shutdown

• “Why many ‘essential’ workers get paid so little, according to experts”

• “A New York City taxi river kept working to pay bills. Now he and his family are sick.”

• “Coronavirus unemployment guide: What to do if you get laid off or furloughed”

• “Gig economy workers will keep working through the coronavirus. They have no choice.”


Students need to practice forming questions, identifying reliable sources and thinking critically. Many of these suggestions will give them practice in evaluating the information they have sought. In discussion of the articles, students might include:

• What questions did reporters ask to get the information and quotations included in the articles?

• How many people were interviewed? Why is each a reliable source?

• What is the main information provide?

• What else would you like to know about this topic?


Pass the Test
Ethics, Health, Journalism, Social Studies,

Columnist Michele L. Norris comments on the ways “all of us are already being tested … in a crucible that will have profound consequences.” Read and discuss the ideas she presents in “The coronavirus is testing us all.”


During the Pandemic
Art, English, Journalism, Psychology, Visual Arts

Michael Cavna, writer/artist for The Post’s Comic Riffs, interviewed cartoonists and shares how they are handling the new isolation. As professionals who work mainly in solitude, they know ways to remain creative. Cavna collects their experience into five tips in "Staying creative, staying healthy." They provide opportunity for students to discuss and apply the tips.

And After the Pandemic?
English, Journalism, Psychology, Social Studies

This composition article begins with reading the introduction to a collection of personal essays and one of the opinion pieces as a model. Students are then asked to consider the changes that have taken place in the last months. Which of the changes may influence life after the pandemic?


Collect Current Events
Journalism, Media, Social Studies, U.S. History

In Real Time is an initiative of The Historical Society of Washington, D.C., and the DC History Center. While newspapers and government repositories will archive the public happenings of this time period, In Real Time is asking students and others to “document your experiences in writing and through videos, photographs and recordings.” People are encouraged to keep journals — digital or on paper. Maybe an example of something students did for family, elders, medical personnel or others during the months of social distancing could be included.


Those who want to participate should answer a survey and learn how to submit materials at


Keeping a journal, recording the events of the day and one’s personal reactions, and reflecting on what is happening in one’s home and community is a good activity for now and the future. Think about what we know of previous generations from historical records and official documents. For a more complete picture add to that the items in their homes (Pompeii), diaries and journals, photographs and artwork.


Follow-up and Get Updates
Health, Journalism, Mathematics, U.S. History, World History

The Washington Post Coronavirus section can offer students and teachers with updated information, charts and graphs, and photographs.


The Washington Post is providing free access to stories so that all readers have access to this important information about the coronavirus. For more free stories, sign up for The Post’s daily Coronavirus Updates newsletter.


Post NIE Guide Editor | Carol Lange
Post NIE Guide Art Editor | Donna McCullough

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In The Know 

Asymptomatic transmission Carriers of the virus who show no signs of being sick but have the virus and can spread it to others. Experts are desperate to understand how common this is; if asymptomatic transmissions are occurring, detecting the virus and stopping its spread will be much harder.
Coronavirus Symptoms begin like the flu, continue with fever, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing so severe to require hospitalization; 2019 novel coronavirus is related to SARS and MERS coronaviruses. SARS-CoV-2, a single-stranded, positive-sense RNA coronavirus, is a severe acute respiratory syndrome. 

People are using the term coronavirus, covid-19 and SARS-CoV-2 interchangeably, but those who nitpick will tell you they actually refer to different things. The new coronavirus itself is officially named SARS-CoV-2. The disease the virus causes in people — the fever, coughing, shortness of breath and in severe cases pneumonia and death — is named covid-19. So SARS-CoV-2 causes covid-19, in the same way that HIV causes AIDS.


Community transmission     Cases in which a disease is circulating among people in a certain area who did not travel to an affected area and had no close link to another confirmed case.  
In the early phases of an epidemic, countries often use this strategy in hope of limiting its spread and possibly stamping it out: Restrict movement of people, enact travel bans and quarantine.

Disease that spreads rapidly and extensively; when the outbreak is sudden and severe within a region or a group, it is an epidemic


Flatten the curve         

The “flattening the curve” chart illustrates the projected number that new coronavirus cases is expected to hit. A high curve means the virus is spreading quickly; some people won’t get the medical care they need (for normal needs and virus), and the number of deaths is likely to increase. A low curve means coronavirus is spreading slowly, which gives doctors the time and resources to treat more people (and hopefully save more lives). Basically deaths were increasing exponentially and have turned to a linear increase. It is sometimes shown with a chart illustrating what might happen if social distancing, sheltering in place, and restricting travel does not take place — a sharp spike. 



Viral respiratory infection. Symptoms include headaches, dry cough, muscle aches and fatigue. Flu pandemics include Spanish Flu (1918), Asian Flu (1957) and Hong Kong Flu (1968). The Spanish Flu killed 50 million people.



Rectangular pieces of material connected to elastic bands. Used to limit the spread of the virus.


Mitigation Getting hospitals ready to handle the influx of patients, stockpiling materials and enacting social distancing policies
N95 Special mask used by health care workers and others caring for sick patients; also recommended for those who are sick to prevent transmission of illness
Outbreak A sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease in a particular place and time
Pandemic Severe illnesses that break out quickly in large populations; an epidemic that spreads and affects a whole region, a continent or the world
Social distancing Public health strategies that reduce contact between people; these include canceling large events, closing schools, encouraging telecommuting and switching to online instruction in schools 
Vaccine Substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against one or several diseases; preparation of killed microorganisms, living attenuated organisms or living fully virulent organisms that is administered to produce or artificially increase immunity to a particular disease. Research to develop a vaccine requires time, candidates that seem promising in the laboratory are often found to not be effective or unsafe in human trials. Next before licensure and deployment, vaccines must be tested in progressively larger human trials. This process usually takes several months to more than a year. Third, when a vaccine is found to be effective, it must be manufactured in very large quantities — another stage taking time.
Virus Ultramicroscopic infectious agent that replicates itself only within cells of living hosts; many are pathogenic; a piece of nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) wrapped in a thin coat of protein

Transmitted from animals to people. The SARS coronavirus came from civet cats, and MERS came from camels.



Oxford Dictionary,, Post articles including “Five Myths: The coronavirus” and “Key terms of the coronavirus outbreak, explained, From asymptomatic to zoonotic”


 “We often call a virus a bug. Does that mean it’s alive?”

1. D; 2. B; 3. “Evolutionary opportunities” involve the interaction between organisms and between various components of an organism. If one organism dies, it gives another an opportunity to thrive. 4. Responses will vary; 5. Responses will vary.


Compare and Contrast | Data Reveals Lives. 1A. Numbers about the Great Recession give perspective on current unemployment claims. We might go beyond the numbers to read what was done in 2009 to restore the economy. Does the cause of unemployment matter as much as the numbers?

1B. Undocumented workers and dreamers are less likely to file. Read “Immigrants face pandemic with few lifelines.” A seasonal adjustment is a statistical technique that attempts to measure and remove the influences of predictable seasonal patterns to reveal how employment and unemployment change from month to month. For example, in summer more farm workers are hired for harvest and during the Christmas season more clerks and Santas are hired.

 1C. New unemployment claims increased from 211,000 (March 1-7) to 3.3 million (March 15-21). [There were 1.7 million existing claims on March 1.] This is a 1464 %  increase. 1D. States, beginning with California on March 19, were issuing stay-at-home orders. Only essential workers were going to work. Some businesses, such as restaurants, were making adjustments to keep some workers and income. 1E. 8.9 million. They are living off of savings and food banks and trying to get concessions from landlords and others they owe. 1F. Responses will vary. For perspective: NYC population — 8,622,357, LA — 4,085,014, Chicago — 2,670,406, Houston — 2,378,146, and Phoenix — 1,743,469.

2A-C. Responses will vary; 3A-C. Responses would include information about U.S. territories, best and worst hit states with covid-19 cases; 4. Answers will vary; 5. Be sure students include their sources of data.

District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

The District of Columbia has adopted the Common Core State Standards in reading and mathematics. In addition, DCPS has adopted new learning standards in arts, health and physical education, science, social studies, technology and world languages.



Academic Content Standards may be found at

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

Health: Disease Prevention and Control. Students will demonstrate the ability to apply prevention and treatment knowledge, skills and strategies to reduce susceptibility and manage disease. (Standard 7)


Health: Disease and Society. Examine the roles of the individual and society in preventing disease. (Standard 7, H.S., Indicator)

  1. Evaluate the impact of communicable and non-communicable disease on the individual, family and society.

c. Illustrate behaviors that may decrease the probability of developing disease.

d. Describe the roles and responsibilities for disease prevention and control of health-related agencies at local, state, and federal levels.

e. Investigate the impact of medical technology on the incidence and prevalence of disease.


The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum Content Standards can be found online at

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

Health: Essential Health Concepts. The student will identify and explain essential health concepts to demonstrate an understanding of personal health.

f) Explain the roles of preventive health measures, immunization, and treatments in disease prevention.

g) Analyze the risk factors associated with communicable and non-communicable diseases. (Grade 8)


 Health: Essential Health Concepts. The student will demonstrate an understanding of health concepts, behaviors, and skills that reduce health risks and enhance the health and wellness of oneself and of others throughout life.

d) Identify technologies individuals can use to assess, monitor, improve, and maintain health.

e) Identify regular screenings, immunizations, vaccines, tests and other medical examinations needed for different stages of life and their role in reducing health risks.

f) Identify and research a selected personal, community, or global health issue.

(Grade 10.1)


Health: Healthy Decisions. The student will analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the protective factors needed to make healthy decisions throughout life.

d) Research the costs and benefits of various technologies that allow individuals to assess, monitor, improve, and maintain health.

f) Explain the impact of the social determinants of health on a selected personal, community, or global health issue. (Disease Prevention/Health Promotion, 10.2)


Health: Advocacy and Health Promotion. The student will advocate for personal health and well-being and promote health-enhancing behaviors for others.

f) Design strategies to address and communicate to others about a selected personal, community, or global health issue. (10.3)


Academic Content Standards may be found at

Common Core Standards 

History/Social Studies, Science & Technical Subjects. Key Ideas and Details: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.2)


History/Social Studies, Science & Technical Subjects. Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7)


Science & Technical Subjects. Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. Translate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text into visual form (e.g., a table or chart) and translate information expressed visually or mathematically (e.g., in an equation) into words. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.7)




Common Core standards may be found at