A high-profile infectious disease researcher warns COVID-19 is in the early stages of attacking the world, which makes it difficult to relax stay-at-home orders without putting most Americans at risk. Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the initial wave of outbreaks in cities such as New York City, where one in five people have been infected, represent a fraction of the illness and death yet to come. “This damn virus is going to keep going until it infects everybody it possibly can,” Osterholm said Monday during a meeting with the USA TODAY Editorial Board. “It surely won’t slow down until it hits 60 to 70%” of the population, the number that would create herd immunity and halt the spread of the virus.
Hollywood got it right. We got it wrong: Gandalf said in The Fellowship of the Ring, “For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” In this interview from 2011, Director of the Emory Global Health Institute Jeffrey Koplan, MD, MPH, thought a global pandemic, like the one in the movie Contagion, was more Hollywood fiction than reality.
Even if new cases begin to fade this summer, it might be an indicator that the new coronavirus is following a seasonal pattern similar to the flu. During the 1918 flu pandemic that sickened one-third of the world’s population, New York City and Chicago were hit hard in the first wave of illness that largely bypassed other cities such as Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis and Philadelphia. The second wave of illness was much more severe nationwide. If COVID-19 retreats only to return in the fall, the number of cases could peak and overwhelm hospitals that must deal with cases of flu and respiratory viruses. Furthermore, Asian nations such as South Korea and Singapore, lauded for strict controls and rapid testing to avoid damage during the first wave, might be vulnerable to a second wave of infections, he said.
“It’s the big peak that’s really going to do us in,” he said. “As much pain, suffering, death and economic disruption we’ve had, there’s been 5 to 20% of the people infected, … That’s a long ways to get to 60 to 70%.” Still, there are key differences between COVID-19 and the flu. The average incubation period for the new virus is five days, compared with just two days for the flu, according to a Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy report comparing the pandemics. The longer incubation period and a higher transmission rate suggest the COVID-19 virus spreads more easily than the flu. There were nearly 80,000 deaths and more than 1.3 million confirmed novel coronavirus cases in the U.S. at noon Monday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data tracker. New York state has been hit the hardest with more than 26,000 deaths, and preliminary antibody testing suggests about 20% of New York City-area residents have been infected. Worldwide, more than 283,000 people have died and 4.1 million have been infected.
Osterholm said only an effective vaccine can slow the virus before a large enough segment of the population becomes infected and develops some level of immunity. Even if a vaccine works, Osterholm said, it’s unknown whether it would be durable enough to confer long-lasting protection from SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. “We all have to confront the fact there’s not a magic bullet, short of a vaccine, that’s going to make this go away,” he said. “We’re going to be living with it. And we’re not having that discussion at all.” –USA Today
A Florida man who initially believed the coronavirus was a “fake crisis” that was “blown out of proportion” is now hospitalized along with his wife — and is sounding a cautionary note about the deadly bug. “I thought it was maybe the government trying something, and it was kind of like they threw it out there to kinda distract us,” Brian Hitchens told WPTV from his hospital bed. Hitchens said he continued downplaying the pandemic until he began feeling sick and stopped working. A couple of days later, his wife also began feeling unwell, so she went to a hospital and was told to go under quarantine. But when the couple’s conditions worsened, Hitchens wrote, they went to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center.
“They admitted us right away and we both went to ICU. I started feeling better within a few days but my wife got worse to the point where they sedated her and put her on the ventilator,” he said. “I was never put ventilator and started feeling better feeling stronger never had terrible aches and pains just weak and exhausted,” Hitchens said, adding that his wife remains sedated. “After 3 weeks I have come to accept that my wife may pass away… – NY Post
Untrue but uncanny: Other Cases: A woman who attended a party in California and joked she had the coronavirus, found out she was not joking when she caused an outbreak in Pasadena. Health officials said the party was attended by multiple members of an extended family as well as their friends, and that guests weren’t wearing masks or adhering to social distancing guidelines.
The woman who has been identified as the “index case” – the first patient in the outbreak identified with the disease – had been coughing and didn’t wear a mask to the party. She apparently joked with other party goers that she had the coronavirus, which turned out to be accurate. Lisa Derderian, a spokeswoman for the city of Pasadena, told the Los Angeles Times that the woman’s disregard for the city’s stay-at-home order – which has been in effect since March 22, prior to the party – led to others becoming severely ill. “The aftermath affected several others who became seriously ill because of one person’s negligent and selfish behavior,” she said. –The Independent