Better testing, treatments, or vaccines: What is the COVID-19 priority?

By Physician Sense
Published May 3, 2020

Key Takeaways

Americans are agitated, and that agitation is coming at a pivotal time during the COVID-19 response. With the return of warmer weather, we may see a return to normal American habits: Sojourns to the beach, backyard barbecues with friends, and family gatherings all sound great right about now. 

But the reality is that other than the stabilization of infection and death rates, the crisis is more or less the same. While remdesivir may be promising as a treatment option, we still don’t have a firm grasp on the actual death rate, which will help us understand how much we can relax social distancing. And, we’re still -- best case scenario -- months away from a vaccine (but more on that later).

What you missed from the weekend

  • Korean researchers say there is no evidence of COVID-19 reinfection and that instances of people testing positive a second time were due to testing errors.

  • Leaked intelligence documents say that China lied about the origins of the virus, the New York Post reports. “China lied to the world about human-to-human transmission of the virus, disappeared whistleblowers and refused to hand over virus samples so the West could make a vaccine,” the report says.

  • The East coast received a dose of temperate weather, drawing many outdoors. The New York Times reports that many appear to have flouted social distancing orders.

  • The Trump administration has barred Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, from speaking before a House subcommittee investigating the COVID-19 response. Slate reports that the administration felt it would be an ineffective use of his time during the pandemic, however, Fauci will still speak to a GOP-led Senate committee. 

  • The New England Journal of Medicine published a Perspective piece on the extent of physician burnout in America. It concludes with the suggestion that if we want to support American healthcare workers and physicians in a meaningful way, then we must reform the system itself by restoring physician autonomy and tapping into the intrinsic motivations that bring people to the medical career.

  • CBS reports that we’re beginning to see another deadly byproduct of the coronavirus pandemic: global famine. It’s one that’s expected to worsen as global supply chains are disrupted and markets collapse.

  • Authorities in Chicago broke up several house parties, the Chicago Tribune reports, prompting Mayor Lori Lightfoot to caution that "we are never getting out of this" if social gatherings continue.

  • More than 120 Georgia restaurant owners said in a full-page newspaper advertisement that they will hold off on opening their doors to the public, CNN reports. Gov. Brian Kemp allowed restaurants to to start serving dine-in patrons, using specific precautions, on April 27.

  • Meanwhile, the same day Kemp lifted restrictions in Georgia, the state reported more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases, Business Insider reports.

  • Not COVID-19 related, but the New York Times reports that we may have a new scourge to worry about: murder hornets. Yes, you read that right, murder hornets.

What’s the priority?

Americans have lost their patience. They’ve brought guns into a statehouse, initiated lawsuits over closed beaches, and have chosen to do as they normally would. You could make the argument that republican democracy is functioning as it should. The people have spoken, and elected officials have listened, easing lockdown restrictions.

But is it too much too soon? If we had more widespread testing, perhaps we could answer that question with greater certainty. So far, we know that about 12% of New Yorkers have antibodies. The state came up with this projection after testing 15,000 people. With more widespread antibody testing, we can be more confident about a safe reopening timeline. The problem is that right now, testing does not appear to be the priority.

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