Here's why we can have some hope about the Covid pandemic

The US keep breaking records in the coronavirus pandemic. The...

Posted: Jan 14, 2021 9:10 AM

The US keep breaking records in the coronavirus pandemic. The latest: 3 million new cases in the first two weeks of the year.

But some experts say there's hope.

Vaccines, spring weather and, surprisingly, the high number of infections all offer cause for optimism, Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia and a member of the US Food and Drug Administration's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, said Wednesday.

Plus there's an expectation the incoming Biden administration will handle things better than the Trump administration has.

While the "awful" numbers are likely to worsen for the next couple of months, Offit believes that the US could stop the spread of the virus by June.

Offit believes that things "are soon going to get dramatically better."

Vaccines

Two Covid vaccines licensed for use in the US under emergency use authorization are "remarkably effective," Offit said.

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, agreed. "We can see a light at the end of the tunnel," he said, adding that vaccines "show us a way forward."

States are still struggling to get vaccines into people's arms. Only about 35% of vaccines distributed to states have been given to people, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. And the US government's Operation Warp Speed has only managed to ship about 10 million doses to state and local governments -- half what it promised to have been distributed and administered by the end of the 2020.

"It's still not there by any means. There's still a lot of work to do to get the vaccination program up and running," Benjamin said.

But there is a steady increase in the number of people being vaccinated. States have passed 500,000 vaccinations a day on average -- something that gives Benjamin confidence that the country can reach a million a day, if not more.

Two more vaccines -- from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca -- "are right around the corner," Offit said. These will "dramatically increase" the options and the amount of vaccines available, according to Benjamin.

The incoming administration

Offit is also hopeful about the incoming Biden administration, noting that President-elect Joe Biden's team "isn't into this cult of denialism" that surrounded the Trump administration's coronavirus response, and would "take this problem head on."

Benjamin believes the Biden team will make more use of the Defense Production Act to ensure that there is a steady, reliable supply of vaccine. He's also looking forward to a better coordinated, all-of-government response.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health security and an infectious disease physician, praised the Biden administration's plans to increase the availability of at-home testing, rejoin the World Health Organization and restore pandemic staff at the National Security Council.

He is also hopeful that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will function independently under the Biden administration. "The fact that we've been unable to really get a handle on this pandemic has been because the CDC has not been able to act the way they usually do during infectious diseases emergencies," Adalja said.

Warmer weather

"The weather will get warmer, when the weather gets warmer, that makes it much more difficult for this virus," Offit said. When it is hot and humid, the virus, which is spread by small droplets, should spread less easily, he said.

Benjamin also pointed out people can spend more time outdoors when the weather warms up across the US. People can stay further apart when they are outside and are not sharing the same air -- so the virus has less opportunity to pass from one person to another.

"The virus will find it harder to move around between person to person, especially when people are doing activities outdoors in the summer," Adalja said.

"We didn't really see the seasonality this summer because there were so many people who were not immune to the virus," he added. "Even in the weather conditions of the summer, (the virus) still found it pretty easy to find new people to infect."

Growing herd immunity

Another reason for optimism is that huge number of Americans who likely have been infected and now have some immunity to the virus, Offit said.

While 23 million have been diagnosed and reported, that number is an underestimate. Many people have had asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infection and were never tested. The numbers of people who have been infected are probably closer to 65 or 70 million, Offit said.

"That's 20% of the population who, when they're re-exposed to this virus, are not going to become sick with it," he said. It's not clear how long immunity after infection lasts, but studies indicate it's at least eight or nine months and perhaps longer.

If another 55 to 60% of the population can be vaccinated -- something that Offit said can be done at a million to a million and a half doses a day -- "then I really do think that by June we can stop the spread of this virus."

Benjamin agreed.

"History has told us that these things go away. And you have to do something to make them go away," Benjamin said. "Even in 1918, 1919, people got infected and tragically the world had to go through that. We achieved some kind of equilibrium, got to herd immunity and it ended."

Notes of caution

"I think that there's tremendous potential that this pandemic will end in 2021, before the end of the year for sure, maybe even before autumn," said Dr. Aaron Glatt, spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America and chairman of the department of medicine at Mount Sinai South Nassau.

"But it certainly will not get to that if the vaccine isn't distributed, or heaven forbid, the vaccine doesn't work in the future, doesn't work as well."

Dr. Sunny Jha, an anesthesiologist at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, is also cautious.

"If we can scale the numbers up, if we can get rid of the hesitancy, if we can eliminate the disinformation, misinformation, I think I'd be a lot more optimistic," Jha said.

"But if you're asking me today if I feel like we're on track for summer, based on what I'm seeing now, I don't think we'll be there."

"I'm cautiously optimistic, I guess," he said. "I think we have the right mindset. I think if we eliminate the hesitancy we'll be in better shape.'

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 268672

Reported Deaths: 5917
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17928195
Hinds17030337
Harrison14510212
Rankin11315223
Jackson11054193
Lee9109147
Madison8663171
Jones6853120
Forrest6260125
Lauderdale6161196
Lowndes5582123
Lafayette5269101
Lamar508765
Washington4965125
Bolivar4164110
Oktibbeha411585
Panola389881
Pontotoc380460
Monroe3727111
Warren3716103
Marshall360172
Union360165
Pearl River3527106
Neshoba3516158
Leflore3132110
Lincoln308389
Hancock300963
Sunflower294277
Tate281862
Alcorn274055
Pike272984
Itawamba271263
Scott264055
Yazoo258456
Prentiss255454
Coahoma252455
Copiah251549
Tippah251551
Simpson244872
Leake238967
Marion228274
Covington224873
Grenada224673
Wayne216336
Adams216271
Winston208271
George206440
Newton201447
Attala197465
Tishomingo196361
Chickasaw190245
Jasper183138
Holmes172568
Clay168637
Tallahatchie158035
Stone153625
Clarke148762
Calhoun142022
Smith131926
Yalobusha124935
Walthall115438
Greene114929
Noxubee114526
Montgomery112936
Lawrence107917
Carroll106922
Perry105931
Amite102727
Webster98024
Claiborne90125
Tunica89621
Jefferson Davis89330
Benton86923
Humphreys85625
Kemper81220
Quitman7169
Franklin71017
Choctaw64013
Wilkinson60125
Jefferson57321
Sharkey45717
Issaquena1616
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 445909

Reported Deaths: 6896
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson651891049
Mobile32138590
Madison28596223
Tuscaloosa21703276
Montgomery20220336
Shelby19584138
Baldwin17496216
Lee13378109
Morgan12741145
Etowah12196189
Calhoun11626228
Marshall10513126
Houston9097168
Limestone842481
Cullman8363125
Elmore8283112
Lauderdale7986112
DeKalb7935112
St. Clair7915139
Talladega6552112
Walker6068184
Jackson605649
Colbert560194
Blount551794
Autauga544065
Coffee470569
Dale415186
Franklin378150
Russell362816
Chilton348079
Covington344681
Escambia342244
Tallapoosa3184109
Dallas314197
Chambers308575
Clarke307339
Pike267735
Lawrence256958
Marion255763
Winston235243
Bibb224751
Geneva214747
Marengo212031
Pickens201831
Barbour188240
Hale187444
Fayette181230
Butler175960
Cherokee167433
Henry161325
Monroe153521
Randolph148236
Washington144027
Clay131050
Crenshaw126245
Macon124337
Cleburne123627
Lamar121324
Lowndes117636
Wilcox109422
Bullock105829
Perry100518
Conecuh98222
Sumter90828
Greene78323
Coosa64619
Choctaw52224
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 28°
Columbus
Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 27°
Oxford
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 24°
Starkville
Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 28°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather