Despite the hard times faced by humanity in our fight against the Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, U.S. health officials shared an optimistic message during a hearing with the House Oversight Committee on Thursday claiming the U.S. could be administering the first COVID-19 vaccine “within a few weeks,” all while laying out how dire the situation really is.
The Dow opened down by another 2,000 points to a multi-year low of under 22,000 following President Trump’s address to the American people the night prior. In his statement, Trump announced a 30-day restriction on travel from Europe (minus the UK) to the U.S. He also announced $50 billion in low interest government loans available to small businesses reeling from the panic caused economic slowdown.
Despite his attempt at reassuring the public, millions are still terrified of health and economic ramifications from COVID-19.
CDC Public Health Preparedness and Response Director Dr. Stephan Redd said President Trump’s early travel restrictions that reduced travel from China by 90% “was a very useful move to prevent more cases from China coming into the United States.” He added, there “really isn’t anything we would’ve done differently.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and infectious Diseases, gave a grimmer account. “Bottom line: It’s going o get worse,” Fauci told Congress. “If we don’t do very serious mitigation now, what’s going to happen is we’re going to be weeks behind.”
“The system is not really geared to what we need right now… let’s admit it,” he added.
The federal government has been criticized for its lack of preparedness, and shortages of testing kits, making identifying people who should be quarantined very difficult.
In a tweet on Monday, President Trump wrote, “so last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year…. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!” While the total number of flu infections is far greater than Coronavirus, the mortality rate for the flu is by some estimates between 10 times and 50 times worse.
Fauci added, “the flu has a mortality rate of 0.1%. This has a mortality rate of 10 times that That’s the reason I want to emphasize we have to stay ahead of the game in preventing this.” President Trump comparison of the Coronavirus with the annual flu was heavily criticized for mismatching total deaths and mortality rates.
While there are existing drugs being used to help fight off the disease in any patients, health officials warn there’s currently no proven cure to COVID-19.
Fauci and others have warned infections will grow in the coming months, and there’s little we can do about it besides containing infections, quarantining carriers, treating symptoms, and trying to delay mass spreads as much as possible. Many fear a shortage of hospital beds if the virus spreads too rapidly.
However, warmer weather may signal an upcoming end to the virus, as many flu-like viruses cannot survive in temperatures higher than 80 degrees.
“We said… that it would take two to three months to have [the vaccine] in the first human.” However, in what should be good news, Fauci thinks we will crush hat estimate, saying, ” I would hope within a few weeks we may be able to make an announcement to you all that we’ve given the first shot to the first person.”
Fauci has said the potential vaccine contains genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA, that was produced in a lab. The mRNA is a genetic code that tells cells how to make a protein and was found in the outer coat of the new coronavirus, according to researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute.
The mRNA instructs the body’s own cellular mechanisms for making proteins to make those that mimic the virus proteins, thereby producing an immune response.CNBC
Though we may be within range of a usable vaccine, “it will take a year to year and a half to really know if it works.”
Though a year seems like a long way away, Facui commented on how remarkably fast the process developing a vaccine was this time around. “We were able to very quickly go from an understanding of what this virus was to what the genetic sequence was to actually developing a vaccine” and heading into a phase 1 trial. ” Going into a phase 1 [trial] in a matter of months is the quickest that anyone has ever done literally in the history of vaccinology.”
The risk to healthy people under 50 is still extremely low, but health officials worry low risk carriers may transmit the disease to high risk seniors, or those with preexisting conditions Mortality rates among people over 80 is nearly 15%.
Infection rates in the U.S. are some of the lowest in the world, 4.2 infections per million people, compared to places like China (56.1), Italy (250), Iran, (120), or South Korea (153.3), however, the U.S. only tested about 11,000 people compared to South Korea which tested 210,000 people and is testing 20,000 new people every day. There could easily be thousands of unknown infected Americans, and because symptoms are so mild, we would never know they’re sick.