Here's why we can have some hope about the Covid pandemic

The US keeps breaking records in the coronavirus pandemic. The latest: 3 million new cases in the first two weeks of the year. But some experts say there's hope.

Posted: Jan 14, 2021 10:00 AM
Updated: Jan 14, 2021 2:55 PM

The US keeps breaking records in the coronavirus pandemic. The latest: 3 million new cases in the first two weeks of the year.

But some experts say there's hope.

Vaccines, spring weather and, surprisingly, the high number of infections all offer cause for optimism, Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia and a member of the US Food and Drug Administration's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, said Wednesday.

Plus there's an expectation the incoming Biden administration will handle things better than the Trump administration has.

While the "awful" numbers are likely to worsen for the next couple of months, Offit believes that the US could stop the spread of the virus by June.

Offit believes that things "are soon going to get dramatically better."

Vaccines

Two Covid vaccines licensed for use in the US under emergency use authorization are "remarkably effective," Offit said.

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, agreed. "We can see a light at the end of the tunnel," he said, adding that vaccines "show us a way forward."

States are still struggling to get vaccines into people's arms. Only about 35% of vaccines distributed to states have been given to people, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

And the US government's Operation Warp Speed has only managed to ship about 10 million doses to state and local governments -- half what it promised to have been distributed and administered by the end of the 2020.

"It's still not there by any means. There's still a lot of work to do to get the vaccination program up and running," Benjamin said.

But there is a steady increase in the number of people being vaccinated. States have passed 500,000 vaccinations a day on average -- something that gives Benjamin confidence that the country can reach a million a day, if not more.

Two more vaccines -- from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca -- "are right around the corner," Offit said. These will "dramatically increase" the options and the amount of vaccines available, according to Benjamin.

The incoming administration

Offit is also hopeful about the incoming Biden administration, noting that President-elect Joe Biden's team "isn't into this cult of denialism" that surrounded the Trump administration's coronavirus response, and would "take this problem head on."

Benjamin believes the Biden team will make more use of the Defense Production Act to ensure that there is a steady, reliable supply of vaccine. He's also looking forward to a better coordinated, all-of-government response.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health security and an infectious disease physician, praised the Biden administration's plans to increase the availability of at-home testing, rejoin the World Health Organization and restore pandemic staff at the National Security Council.

He is also hopeful that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will function independently under the Biden administration. "The fact that we've been unable to really get a handle on this pandemic has been because the CDC has not been able to act the way they usually do during infectious diseases emergencies," Adalja said.

Warmer weather

"The weather will get warmer, when the weather gets warmer, that makes it much more difficult for this virus," Offit said. When it is hot and humid, the virus, which is spread by small droplets, should spread less easily, he said.

Benjamin also pointed out people can spend more time outdoors when the weather warms up across the US. People can stay further apart when they are outside and are not sharing the same air -- so the virus has less opportunity to pass from one person to another.

"The virus will find it harder to move around between person to person, especially when people are doing activities outdoors in the summer," Adalja said.

"We didn't really see the seasonality this summer because there were so many people who were not immune to the virus," he added. "Even in the weather conditions of the summer, (the virus) still found it pretty easy to find new people to infect."

Growing herd immunity

Another reason for optimism is that huge number of Americans who likely have been infected and now have some immunity to the virus, Offit said.

While 23 million have been diagnosed and reported, that number is an underestimate. Many people have had asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infection and were never tested. The numbers of people who have been infected are probably closer to 65 or 70 million, Offit said.

"That's 20% of the population who, when they're re-exposed to this virus, are not going to become sick with it," he said. It's not clear how long immunity after infection lasts, but studies indicate it's at least eight or nine months and perhaps longer.

If another 55 to 60% of the population can be vaccinated -- something that Offit said can be done at a million to a million and a half doses a day -- "then I really do think that by June we can stop the spread of this virus."

Benjamin agreed.

"History has told us that these things go away. And you have to do something to make them go away," Benjamin said. "Even in 1918, 1919, people got infected and tragically the world had to go through that. We achieved some kind of equilibrium, got to herd immunity and it ended."

Notes of caution

"I think that there's tremendous potential that this pandemic will end in 2021, before the end of the year for sure, maybe even before autumn," said Dr. Aaron Glatt, spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America and chairman of the department of medicine at Mount Sinai South Nassau.

"But it certainly will not get to that if the vaccine isn't distributed, or heaven forbid, the vaccine doesn't work in the future, doesn't work as well."

Dr. Sunny Jha, an anesthesiologist at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, is also cautious.

"If we can scale the numbers up, if we can get rid of the hesitancy, if we can eliminate the disinformation, misinformation, I think I'd be a lot more optimistic," Jha said.

"But if you're asking me today if I feel like we're on track for summer, based on what I'm seeing now, I don't think we'll be there."

"I'm cautiously optimistic, I guess," he said. "I think we have the right mindset. I think if we eliminate the hesitancy we'll be in better shape.'

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 657037

Reported Deaths: 12450
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion901321624
Lake48105871
Allen35552632
Hamilton31839393
St. Joseph29538510
Elkhart25261412
Vanderburgh21115377
Tippecanoe19765197
Johnson16242352
Porter15838267
Hendricks15723296
Clark11843179
Madison11672314
Vigo11503228
Monroe10248158
Delaware9788178
LaPorte9720194
Howard9017194
Kosciusko8514107
Bartholomew7373147
Warrick7369146
Hancock7362128
Floyd7139164
Wayne6586188
Grant6395157
Morgan6040124
Boone603388
Dubois5868111
Dearborn540266
Henry539492
Marshall5390104
Cass537199
Noble506775
Jackson462063
Shelby458490
Lawrence4154111
Gibson399681
Harrison395160
Clinton392353
DeKalb382078
Montgomery381583
Knox354484
Miami354063
Whitley346235
Huntington338176
Steuben335955
Wabash328775
Putnam325959
Ripley325161
Adams320249
Jasper312943
White295351
Jefferson292770
Daviess284296
Fayette270255
Decatur269388
Greene259978
Posey259731
Wells255374
Scott248446
LaGrange240170
Clay238944
Randolph225076
Spencer215830
Jennings213544
Washington207727
Sullivan202038
Fountain200341
Starke185950
Owen181652
Jay177328
Fulton176437
Carroll175618
Perry172435
Orange170450
Rush163922
Franklin158335
Vermillion158040
Tipton145441
Parke137915
Pike127232
Blackford120027
Pulaski105643
Newton96431
Brown94639
Benton91113
Crawford90113
Martin80114
Switzerland7507
Warren74612
Union66810
Ohio52711
Unassigned0425

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 958153

Reported Deaths: 16968
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1109381191
Cuyahoga944201702
Hamilton72486944
Montgomery46927869
Summit39637941
Butler35004461
Lucas34724755
Stark29011826
Warren22137269
Lorain21738385
Mahoning19251533
Lake18178300
Clermont18172206
Delaware16261128
Licking14820194
Fairfield14378157
Trumbull14136454
Greene13470209
Medina13188218
Clark12121332
Wood11384193
Portage10829152
Allen10710231
Richland10165198
Miami9937179
Columbiana8049179
Muskingum8036123
Tuscarawas7974233
Pickaway795898
Marion7936134
Wayne7791216
Erie6783181
Ross6065135
Geauga5978129
Hancock5941110
Scioto5867105
Ashtabula5811140
Lawrence519073
Union505052
Darke5006122
Belmont484787
Sandusky472393
Jefferson4709107
Huron4701116
Seneca4620103
Athens456231
Mercer4559101
Auglaize453896
Washington451286
Shelby438867
Knox397884
Putnam3964101
Madison388747
Ashland374594
Fulton374364
Defiance3670101
Brown366742
Crawford354296
Preble350570
Logan349757
Clinton336162
Highland323652
Ottawa318467
Williams299578
Jackson287056
Guernsey283234
Champaign282545
Fayette265642
Perry265239
Morrow256624
Henry242665
Hardin241856
Holmes2416104
Coshocton230246
Van Wert227749
Gallia219446
Adams213732
Pike212025
Wyandot207652
Hocking192148
Carroll178828
Paulding158423
Meigs133536
Noble127842
Monroe114936
Harrison99132
Morgan98834
Vinton76215
Unassigned00
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