More than five months since the first COVID-19 case appeared in Wuhan, China, relief efforts have finally begun to yield some good news.
Encouraging new human coronavirus vaccine trials will be conducted this Thursday in Oxford, England. The U.S.National Institutes of Health is currently harvesting COVID-19 antibodies in the hopes of treating critical manifestations of the disease, and recent studies that took both severe and mild cases into account concluded its death rate to be significantly lower than previously assumed. Countermeasures appear to be working across the globe—but the threat level remains.
SARS-Cov-2’s unmatched acceleration is in large part due to its erratic pathology. Epidemiologists can’t introduce supportive treatment for the symptoms associated with the ensuing respiratory illness because the symptoms vary drastically between populations.
How can nations prepare for a looming economic catastrophe when the health catastrophe at hand requires immobility of those wishing to survive it? What about all of the deadly chronic conditions that require research and funding while academic and legislative attention is fixed on the most destructive pandemic since 1918?
Even though protective measures aimed at the considerations above are often premised by a return to normalcy, the systems in place before this black swan disaster-hit made us particularly ill-positioned to contain it once it did.
How we got here and how to move on
Not long after the SARS-Cov-2 virus penetrated the U.S, the public began to grow resentful of conflicting information.
Initially, we were assured that human to human transmission was impossible. When this piece of data proved to be incorrect, we were comforted by the news that fatalities had not occurred among any of the confirmed cases.
All of these were eventually retconned to suggest fatal outcomes only occurred in the elderly and the immune-compromised though neither of these held true against time and further analysis.
Despite the wealth of available literature on pandemics (some of which was penned by current Coronavirus task force official, Anthony Fauci) few administrations took their potential seriously.
Funding had been routinely stripped away from infectious disease research for more than a decade.
“Global health experts have been saying for years that another pandemic whose speed and severity rivaled those of the 1918 influenza epidemic was a matter not of if but of when,” a recent paper published in The New England Journal warned. “There are two reasons that COVID-19 is such a threat. First, it can kill healthy adults in addition to elderly people with existing health problems. Second, COVID-19 is transmitted quite efficiently. The average infected person spreads the disease to two or three others — an exponential rate of increase. There is also strong evidence that it can be transmitted by people who are just mildly ill or even presymptomatic.”
None of the lethal characteristics linked to COVID-19 are novel, they’re just heightened.
If elected officials coordinated a global effort to treat the novel coronavirus as if it were just as sophisticated as the similarly-acting viruses that came before it or worse, we might have been able to avert some of the damage that we’re currently experiencing. The current state of affairs was co-authored by spurned expertise and needless deaths.
Stories like Dr. Li Wenliang’s come to mind; a 34-year-old ophthalmologist who attempted to alert the medical community in Wuhan about the novel coronavirus on December 30, only to tragically die of COVID-19 before his concerns were justified.
Long after COVID-19 was recognized as a global crisis by various health systems, Belgium law enforcement had to shut down a rave attended by more than 300 people.
France had to make non-essential traveling a punishable offense (a US $150 fine) to mitigate persistent cluster spreading.
US officials faced similar challenges with respect to alerting the public to the seriousness of COVID-19.
By the time it sunk in the outbreak was several leagues ahead of surveillance and contact tracing.
Younger populations, who primarily experience symptoms too mild to seek medical attention or none at all, continued to travel and subsequently infect disproportionately impacted communities.
By late March medical facilities were overwhelmed. There weren’t enough masks to provide health care workers with. There weren’t enough ventilators to stabilize individuals suffering from acute respiratory syndrome or those with independent comorbidities who require intervention.
Oppressed by a barge of inconsistent data, Americans flooded hospitals in search of tests and therapeutics, which only led to more transmissions and fewer tools to suppress them.
A meta-analysis of common zoonotic infections led physicians to believe that SARS-Cov-2 carriers are likely the most contagious after the onset of severe symptoms. This proved not to be the case, as carriers actually shed the most viral debris before they begin to feel ill.
“Viral shedding of patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 peaked on or before symptom onset, and a substantial proportion of transmission probably occurred before first symptoms in the index case,” the authors of a new report in Nature Medicine write. “More inclusive criteria for contact tracing to capture potential transmission events two to three days before symptom onset should be urgently considered for effective control of the outbreak.”
Since the first COVID-19 outbreak struck around flu and allergy season patients who were unclear of how to distinguish between the three made a point to receive testing when testing kits were still extremely limited.
We have since become aware of several instructive prodromes, which are halved between the neurological (loss of taste, trembling and fizz like sensation) and those associated with respiratory damage (dry cough, labored breathing and fatigue).
The more our data set lengthens the clearer an alternate narrative becomes; a narrative that accompanies nations prepared for the worst a new virus has to offer.
Social distancing mandates would have been put in place before communal spread, which means virologists would have been able to track every new confirmed case.
With a pool of infected patients, epidemiologists would have been able to draft a list of the most common recurring symptoms.
With an idea of the impairments that follow infection, physicians would have been able to have supportive resources in the chamber to treat patients.
With the sick contained, the development of vaccines would have been allowed the breathing room to consider every conceivable solution. Without time, the scientific process is more like a race, and all parties involved are forced to rely on guesswork and windfalls to mitigate catastrophic outcomes.
Pandemic research isn’t the only kind of research that could have prevented the COVID-19 health crisis. In virtually every country affected by the disease, fatal cases were linked by similar phenotypes.
Poor diet, smoking, and pre-existing conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension have been determinative of case severity.
As of the time of this writing, 44,120 Americans have died of COVID-19.
FKillion are medically overweight.
Thirty-four million adults in the US currently smoke cigarettes. and over 16 million are living with a smoking-related disease.
Processed carbohydrates have become a staple of the American diet, and the consequences are wreaking havoc on our bodies,” explained David Kessler, the former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. From a tangle of intricate science, then, a simple strategy emerges. Our best path to health comprises three basic steps: limit fast carbs, exercise with moderate intensity, and lower LDL levels. Following these recommendations will change our nation’s health as significantly as reducing tobacco use has done,” Kessler concludes.
Writing on the walls
The broad strokes of the failures preluding the final leg of our post-mortem come down to basic policy prescriptions-or a lack thereof.
The COVID-19 pandemic has really emphasized just how ill-equipped our leaders are. Moreover, in the middle of a sleepy populist renaissance, the crisis draws a line in the sand between those who wish to maintain the status quo at all costs, and those who wish to elevate it despite them. Factionalization will doom every recovery program in the long run.
The pillars of the $2.2 trillion stimulus proposal signed on March 27th, 2020 are not sufficient solutions to “the health” portion of our health crisis, saying nothing of the performative amendments purported to avoid repeating the slush fund robbery of 2008.
“The quick injection of federal money into the economy, combined with a fast-moving public health crisis, means that opportunities for fraud will be rampant. An effective oversight mechanism will be crucial to ensuring that the vast injection of government money goes toward relieving the brunt of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic,” wrote economists Alan Rappeport and Jeanna Smialek
It’s unfortunate that COVID-19 arrived at the height of election season, because all of the countermeasures presented by party leaders are advertisements first, and relief efforts second.
COVID-19 will almost certainly evidence more than one wave. When it does legislation has to be in place to support the uninsured and the workers looking at several more months of economic downturn.
More than 30% of Americans are facing unemployment (22 million have already filed) and only one in five small businesses were deemed eligible for a payment protection loan, Meanwhile, the next phase of the stimulus bill is on hold while lawmakers sort through a mess of referendums.
The core objective as far as officials are concerned is getting the economy up and running as soon as possible. Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee have already announced official plans to end consumer curfews. Congressional experts have not reacted positively to this news, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has become the target for all of their censure.
“Pilloried by public health experts and others for waiting for weeks before imposing a statewide shelter-in-place order, Kemp is now facing mounting pushback from critics who say he should immediately restart sectors of the economy that languished during the lockdown,” the Atlantic reported.
“The move, which is even more aggressive than President Donald Trump’s optimistic call for a May 1 reopening, came after a week in which total US pandemic deaths doubled to more than 42,000. There is also no genuine sign that the Peach State’s duel with the virus is anywhere near over,” CNN added
Singapore, Hong Kong, and Harbin China have already proved that undoing shelter in place guidelines at the first sight of good news invariably ends in aggressive waves of COVID-19.
I might add that the idea that citizens will express high levels of consumer confidence as soon as they’re liberated from social isolation appears to be a miscalculation.
According to a new Wall Street Journal poll, more than half of Americans believe that legislators are acting too quickly by loosening restrictions.
To move forward, a bi-partisan conversation needs to be initiated. In the wake of COVID-19, the future of this country could be one wherein ideas are allowed to be surveyed by their merit as opposed to the affiliation of their authors.
The pandemic’s speed, trajectory, and death toll were facilitated by a confluence of factors that are in our control to diminish.
Before the next pandemic arrives, hopefully, we will have learned valuable lessons from the citizens across the world that made survival their single most important concern.
“It is these structural inequalities that have led to these higher rates of preexisting illness, lack of access to good food, lack of access to health care. pharmacies. People doing work, risking their lives, in order to keep the country running,” CNN’s Chief Medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explained in a release.