It’s still true: Not all the news about COVID-19 is bad – Harvard Health Blog
I thought the pandemic would now be over. And I am not alone; there were sophisticated models predicting a dramatic drop in the number of infections by the summer. And while there were understandable concerns about Wave 2, the reinfection, and the flu season ahead, there was good reason to believe we would have the worst of Wave 1 well behind us.
Now this all seems like wishful thinking. Here we are, more than nine months after the start of the pandemic, with over 224,000 deaths and over 70,000 new cases and 800 deaths every day in this country at the end of October. New hot spots are popping up in the United States and around the world. Herd immunity, whether from infection or vaccination, is still several months away, or even years – if that happens. Despite these challenges, we have good news.
Good news on COVID-19: my top 5 list
It’s easy to miss some positive developments in how the fight against this pandemic is going, given all the grim news. Here is my take on five important ones.
- Shortly after its onset, researchers identified the viral cause of COVID-19, mapped its genome, and tracked its spread.
For a virus unknown less than a year ago, all of these things have happened quickly thanks to the dedication and cooperation of scientists and public health officials around the world. Imagine how things would be now if we still didn’t know the cause of this terrible disease and didn’t know where it was spreading.
- We now have good evidence that face covers and physical distance work.
Although recommendations to wear masks or other face coverings and maintain physical distance were first made several months ago, a compelling scientific case supporting these recommendations has only been published. recently. Studies on the effectiveness of these measures (such as this, this and that) make it difficult to justify do not following these recommendations.
- There is growing evidence that testing and contact tracing job.
Recognizing that there are huge challenges and obstacles to the widespread implementation of these measures, we have seen better containment in places where testing and contact tracing is routine (such as New Zealand, Korea South, Singapore). And it seems likely that at some point we’ll have new and better tests with improved accuracy, more availability (including home testing), and faster turnaround times.
- Care for patients with COVID-19 has improved since the early days of the pandemic.
This may explain the reports of lower death rates among those sickest with COVID-19. Increased testing, detection of more asymptomatic cases, and more patients in younger age groups may also help improve numbers. Still, supportive care (such as ‘pronounced’ patients), some medications (such as dexamethasone and recently approved remdesivir), and more experience with this infection likely improved outcomes overall. Importantly, we’ve also identified ineffective treatments (like hydroxychloroquine – see here, here, and here for studies), so that we can avoid unnecessary and potentially harmful ones.
- A number of vaccines have been developed and large-scale trials are underway to determine which are safe and effective.
Again, this has happened at an unprecedented speed. Several companies are working on different vaccine candidates. Manufacturing of some prominent candidates is already underway and authorities plan to distribute millions of doses of the vaccine in the coming months. While there is no guarantee that any of the vaccines in development will be successful, these developments increase the chances that we will have an effective vaccine sooner rather than later.
It should be emphasized that there are major concerns about the safety of moving so fast, a lack of transparency about trial data, and the possibility of politics influencing the process, which could foster a reluctance to be vaccinated. Still, it seems better if this effort is underway, rather than having to wait years for a potential vaccine to be approved.
The bottom line
Much about how our country responded to the pandemic could have – and should have – been better. But things would be even worse without the items on this list.
If we all do our part in the fight against COVID-19, the good news should become easier to find. Maybe it’s already happening: Some places may have contained or nearly eliminated COVID-19, at least temporarily. And toilet paper is back on store shelves.
Follow me on twitter @RobShmerling
For more information on COVID-19, see the Harvard Health Coronavirus Resource Center.
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