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Infection preventionists must brace themselves for a huge influx of COVID patients, as more data reveal just how formidable of a foe this novel coronavirus can be.
In its fashion, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) will most likely be feasting over the Thanksgiving holiday, infecting more and more people. Even though a good portion of the public is listening to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and keeping Thanksgiving celebrations limited so as to slow the spread of the disease, a good many other people will travel, presenting opportunities to this opportunistic pathogen. Thanksgiving could cause a surge on top of the surge already happening as November registers at least 20 consecutive days of 100,000 or more of new COVID-19 cases. Infection preventionists and other healthcare professionals brace themselves, as the CDC warns that it’s possible that the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are likely to rise every day for the next 4 to 10 weeks, further straining an already strained healthcare system.
COVID-19 is far from running its course, according to a study in JAMA Network. That study says that as of September, a vast majority of people in the United States don’t have the coronavirus antibodies needed to fight the disease, meaning that a vast majority remain vulnerable.
“In this repeated, cross-sectional study of 177,919 residual clinical specimens, the estimated percentage of persons in a jurisdiction with detectable SARS-CoV-2 antibodies ranged from fewer than 1% to 23%,” the study states. “Over 4 sampling periods in 42 of 49 jurisdictions with calculated estimates, fewer than 10% of people had detectable SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.”
Complicating the problem is evidence that the prevalence of COVID-19 antibodies decreases over time. For instance, the investigators cite “declining seroprevalence in New York” where the percentage of people with antibodies decreased from 23.3% to 17%.
“Assays to detect other factors associated with the immune response, such as quantitative antibody levels and neutralizing antibodies for SARS-CoV-2, are resource intensive and not yet widely available,” the study states.
Mortality rates are plummeting, as Stephan Hahn, MD, the commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pointed out yesterday in an Instagram Live interview with Sen. Tim Scott. Hahn said that in the beginning of the pandemic, the mortality rate for those over 70 was 30%.
“Now it's around 11%, and that’s because the great doctors of this country have learned how to take care of the patients, but we have new treatments,” Hahn said. Remdesivir, steroids, convalescent plasma, and monoclonal antibodies are among the treatments Hahn cites.
He also notes the progress being made by several pharma companies in the development of a COVID vaccine. However, a COVID vaccine only works if you take it and some researchers argue that a public health campaign for vaccine acceptance needs to begin immediately.
Hahn also sees a lot of promise in the development of self-administered COVID-19 tests the people can perform in their homes. The Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit, a self-test for Covid-19 that can provide results in 30 minutes or less, was recently granted emergency use authorization by the FDA.
Hahn told Scott: “This is the first step, and I see more of this coming.”
The bottom line, though, is that people need to continue doing what health experts have been exhorting them to do since the beginning of the pandemic: hand hygiene, masking, and social distancing.
Even over the Thanksgiving holiday.