By Shereen Siewert

As the reality of the COVID-19 outbreak washes over each and every one of us, there is a lot to worry about.

People are scared. Businesses and schools are shut down. Livelihoods teeter on the brink.

We know. We’ve been writing about it nonstop for more than a week.

But, there is a handful of news that’s worth smiling about. Here’s our list of eight things to celebrate, even as our worlds are turned upside down.

1. The FDA approved the first rapid COVID-19 test

The Food and Drug administration approved the first rapid point-of-care COVID-19 test that can deliver results in less than an hour, according to an announcement made Saturday.

Cepheid, a Silicon Valley diagnostics company, has received emergency authorization from the government to use the test. While the agency has approved about a dozen other COVID-19 tests in response to the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic, this is the first one that can be used at the point of care.

Cepheid said the test kits will be available by the end of the month.

Gundersen Health System also announced Saturday that they have developed a test to detect the COVID-19 virus and provide the results to patients.

Because of this, Gundersen can now process the tests in-house, which reduces the wait time for results.

Until now, to get test result, a health care worker would take a swab from the back of a person’s nose, and send it off to a public health, commercial or hospital lab, a process that can take days. The newly approved test kit still involves taking a nasal swab, but the test can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic with a detection time of approximately 45 minutes, according to Cepheid.

2. Most people recover

Epidemiologists say the recovery rates for Covid-19 won’t be clear until the outbreak is over and they can look at complete data sets. But early figures from China indicate that most people do recover from the illness.

In a situation report published on Thursday, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that of the 80,928 confirmed cases in mainland China, 70,420 people have been “cured and discharged from hospital,” while 3,245 have died. The rest are still ill.

3. A 103-year-old Chinese grandmother infected with COVID-19 made a full recovery

After being treated for less than a week, this grandma is on record as the oldest coronavirus patient to recover in China, offering a ray of hope to people around the globe.

4. The community is coming together to support one another

Wausau-area residents are rallying around restaurants that are trying to stay afloat by offering curbside pickup and delivery. At some local restaurants including Bunkers, Culver’s and The Loading Zone, takeout orders skyrocketed for Friday night fish fries, and local food delivery services slashed or even eliminated delivery charges altogether. The Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce has a running list of restaurants offering curbside pickup or delivery. Find the ongoing list here.

5. People are finding unique ways to connect

As bars and restaurants remain closed in the days of social distancing, people are still finding ways to keep in touch. On Saturday, March 21, Intermission Bar would normally have been jam packed for its annual Corn Dog Day celebration, which features live music, drink specials and — what else? — corn dogs. This year, staff members shared live music and sold Corn Dog Day t-shirts via a Facebook Live event, where bar regulars could chime in with their well-wishes and greetings to one another. Elsewhere, musicians and music venues are hosting similar virtual events including a live performance by local musician Brad Emmanuel at an empty Arrow Sports Club in Weston.

On Saturday, a video of Neil Diamond performing “Sweet Caroline,” complete with COVID-19 lyrics, was posted to social media. The updated version of “Sweet Caroline” features the following lyrics:

“Hands, washing hands, reaching out, don’t touch me, I won’t touch you.”

“I know we’re going through a rough time right now, but I love you, and I think maybe if we sing together we might feel a little bit better,” Diamond said before performing in his home next to a fire with his dog.

The video has more than a million views, been liked more than 42,000 times on Facebook and shared more than 55,000 times. Meanwhile, over on Twitter, it has gotten more than 31,000 re-tweets and 76,000 likes. Find it on Facebook here.

Online, people are sharing lists of great reads, movies to stream, games to play at home and COVID-19 song parodies. Our marketing and advertising manager, Darren Siewert, created a couple of coronavirus-themed playlists on Spotify. Here’s one you might enjoy.

6. Vaccine efforts are ramping up

A San Diego-based biotech company, Arcturus Therapeutics, is working on creating a coronavirus vaccine at its lab alongside Duke NUS-Medical School, a partnership between Duke University and the National University of Singapore. Israeli scientists, too, are nearing development of the first vaccine to combat the novel coronavirus, according to Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis. And vaccine trials in the U.S. are underway. A trial at Kaiser Permanente under Washington’s Health Research Institute in Seattle could confirm the safety of a new vaccine prior to mass production. Scientists in Canada have had breakthroughs this week as well.

7. Distilleries around the U.S. are making hand sanitizer and giving it away

A number of distilleries are using their supplies of high-proof alcohol to manufacture much-needed hand sanitizer, the cost of which skyrocketed since the World Health Organization declared a state of emergency on Jan. 30. A case of a dozen 8-ounce bottles of Purell hand sanitizer jumped from $30 to nearly $160 on March 3, USA Today reported.

Americans who have hoarded hand sanitizer and other supplies, such as toilet paper, have contributed to the soaring prices, according to the report. Two Tennessee brothers became infamous after they went viral for hoarding 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer and selling them on Amazon. The good news: the brothers are now donating the remainder of their hand sanitizer, after the Tennessee attorney general opened an investigation into their activities.

8. Holiday lights are brightening neighborhoods nationwide

At homes from coast to coast, holiday lights are going back up, providing a bit of emotional brightness that’s easy to enjoy from a safe social distance.

An Associated Press report quoted Julie Check of Eastman, Wis., who said she turned on the white lights that trace the roof line of her home on Wednesday.

“We live out in the country, but I know you can see them from the highway,” Check is quoted as saying. “Anything I can do to make people happy right now, I’m going to try to do.”

In the spirit of things, we turned our Christmas lights back on, too.

Contact Shereen Siewert at On Twitter as @ShereenSiewert.