The leading infectious disease specialist in the United States, Dr Anthony Fauci, warned in a sunday Meet the press interview that another wave of Covid-19 cases “superimposed on this wave we’re already in” could happen, in large part because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Public health experts have been warned Americans at risk of gathering for the holidays as US experiences worst Covid-19 outbreak yet – Dr Jonathan Reiner told CNN Tuesday, Thanksgiving could become “the mother of all mass market events.” Despite these warnings, figures from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) suggest that over a million Americans traveled by plane just last Wednesday, the highest number since the start of the pandemic, and many more likely went to spend Thanksgiving with family.
Already, the United States is making grim new records – the push Fauci referred to – and given that it takes an average of five to six days for an infected person to show symptoms, new cases due to the infections Thanksgiving Day are expected to start appearing at the end of this week.
But, as Vox Lopez’s German explained earlier this month, it may be several weeks before the full impact of Thanksgiving celebrations is understood:
With the coronavirus, it takes time – days, even weeks – for a person to go from infection to testing. Then it may take days or weeks for that person to end up in the hospital with severe symptoms. Deaths can take even longer if treatment fails. All of this data is like the light from another galaxy that takes a long time to reach our eyes: it reflects infections that happened weeks ago, not today or yesterday.
The United States reported a record 205,460 new cases of Covid-19 in a single day on Friday, according to New York Times data. Friday was also the first day the United States saw more than 200,000 cases, less than a month after crossing the 100,000 daily cases mark for the first time on November 4. On average, the country has reported more than 162,000 cases per day for the past week.
Despite those grim numbers, Fauci told NBC’s Chuck Todd, “I don’t want to scare people off except to say it’s not too late at all to do something about it. Basic public health practices, Fauci said – wearing a mask, distancing yourself and avoiding large gatherings – remain crucial to mitigating the spread of the coronavirus.
President Donald Trump, himself infected in early October, has largely ceded the ground when it comes to combating the spread of the virus. Trump has repeatedly minimized the virus and encouraged people to interact with each other as they did before the pandemic, even as Covid-19 ravages the country and Trump’s own White House and presidential campaign.
Since polling day, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, and his presidential son Donald Trump Jr. have all tested positive for Covid-19, along with at least 10 others in the president’s orbit, according to a New York Times count.
A number of promising vaccines are on the way
The extent of Trump’s engagement on the issue appears to be an obsession with taking credit for the recent good news on the vaccine front.
“Another vaccine has just been announced. This time by Moderna, 95% efficient ”, Trump tweeted November 16. “For these great ‘historians’, remember that these great discoveries, which will put an end to the Chinese plague, have all taken place under my supervision!”
Another vaccine has just been announced. This time by Moderna, 95% efficient. For these great “historians”, remember that these great discoveries, which will put an end to the plague in China, all took place under my supervision!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2020
Separately, Trump told Fox News host Maria Bartiromo in an interview Sunday – her first since losing the election – that “I offered vaccines that people didn’t think they had for five years,” a claim totally wrong.
In short, according to Dylan Scott of Vox, as the pandemic “enters its most dangerous period yet, the current leadership of the country – with which we are stranded until January 20 – does not appear to intend to do anything.
However, apart from Trump’s credit grab, the vaccines from AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer – all of which have recently reported positive clinical trial results – hold some hope, though still distant.
According to White House tests, Tsar Adm. Brett Giroir In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday, the United States “should have enough vaccines by the end of the year to immunize 20 million Americans and we need to vaccinate to have an impact.” But the American people must do the right things until this vaccine is widely distributed.
There are still obstacles to overcome in the vaccine race. As Vox’s Umair Irfan explains, clinical trials have yet to be concluded and vaccines have yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, although Moderna and Pfizer both hope to receive emergency use authorizations, or EUAs, allowing their vaccines to be used without full approval.
Even with an EUA, however, there are still logistical issues. Irfan explains:
Once a vaccine is approved, a global supply chain, from the glass vials that contain the vaccine to the syringes used to inject them, must grow to produce huge quantities of the vaccine. Manufacturers will also need to ensure that vaccines remain intact and subject to strict temperature controls, from the factory to the hospitals and clinics where they will be used. The process of making, distributing and administering a vaccine could take months.
It is also important to remember that a vaccine alone is not enough to end the pandemic. Measures such as social distancing, good hygiene and wearing masks will remain essential to control the spread of Covid-19 until a vaccine is widely available. Public acceptance will also be a major problem, and health officials will have to overcome a growing wave of reluctance to immunize.
All of that is in the future, however – and Covid-19 hospitalizations in the United States continue to rise in the present. From Saturday, more than 91,000 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 – the most ever – and hospitals in some parts of the country are at full capacity.
In Wisconsin, increasingly overwhelmed healthcare workers at the University of Wisconsin published an open letter to residents of the state: “Without immediate change,” they wrote, “our hospitals will be too full to treat all those who have the virus and those who suffer from other illnesses or injuries.” Soon you or someone you love might need us, but we won’t be able to provide you with the life-saving care you need, whether it’s for COVID-19, cancer, heart disease, or other pressing issues. As health care providers, we are terrified of this becoming a reality.
Already in May of this year – a distant story, in terms of a pandemic – Dr Rick Bright, who previously headed a U.S. vaccine research agency and now serves as President-elect Joe Biden coronavirus task force, warned that “without better planning, 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history.”
Now that dark winter seems to have arrived.