Dr. Janette Nesheiwat: Progress being made against coronavirus, but keep taking precautions to fight spread

Dr. Janette Nesheiwat: Progress being made against coronavirus, but keep taking precautions to fight spread
At the start of the long Labor Day weekend Friday, President Trump gave us some important reminders about commonsense safety precautions we can all take to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

At a White House news conference the president reminded us to practice social distancing, wear a mask when social distancing is not possible, wash our hands frequently, clean common areas, and obtain testing if we are directly exposed to someone with COVID-19 or having symptoms of the disease.

On a positive note, the president said new COVID-19 cases have declined by 28 percent nationwide over the past month, and said there has been a staggering 85% reduction in the death rate from the disease since April.

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But this good news shouldn’t prompt us to grow complacent and ignore the need to continue to protect ourselves from COVID-19. New cases of the disease spiked after the Memorial Day weekend, so we must not let our guard down this holiday weekend.

The president highlighted the fact that we have several vaccines in phase three testing, including by Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna. Pfizer trials may end as soon as early as October, meaning a vaccine could be approved by the end of the year and possibly even by Nov. 1.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has instructed the states to prepare for mass vaccinations by Nov. 1.

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We’ve come a long way as far as treatments and therapeutics for COVID-19 are concerned, including convalescent plasma (which recently received Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization), the antiviral drug remdesevir (which has shortened hospital stays),  and steroids (which have reduced inflammation in the body). In addition, monoclonal antibodies are currently undergoing clinical trials.

The search for a coronavirus vaccine and improved treatments is urgent not just because of the infections and deaths the disease has already caused, but because as we approach the fall and winter months we will see other illnesses such as influenza, adenovirus and pneumonia, in addition to COVID-19.

For now, the influenza vaccine is available to everyone six months of age and older. And I believe soon there will be a COVID-19 vaccine available as well.

Around the world, more than 26.4 million people have been infected by the coronavirus and over 870,000 have died. This includes more than 6.1 million people infected in the U.S. and more than 187,000 who have died.

Thanks to Operation Warp Speed launched by the Trump administration, work on a COVID-19 vaccine is moving forward at a record pace. A vaccine normally takes years to develop. The fastest vaccine development on record is for measles, which took about four years. The measles vaccine is 99% effective.

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Unfortunately, some vaccines take far longer to develop. For example, researchers have been trying without success to develop a vaccine against HIV/AIDS since 1984. The work goes on.

Having a COVID-19 vaccine within a year of the pandemic’s arrival in the U.S. would be a blessing and a testament to the talent and ingenuity that our country is capable of.

As a doctor in New York City on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve seen firsthand the devastation this virus has caused to my patients — ranging from fever, cough, chest pain, difficulty breathing and sadly, death.

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Let’s keep in mind that this pandemic will end. All pandemics do. Our federal government, drug manufacturers, and everyone involved in health care are working to bring that end about as soon as possible, and make COVID-19 something we can read about in history books, like other diseases that have been eradicated.

Finally, as an emergency health care provider, my advice on non-COVID tips to stay safe this weekend includes the importance of avoiding drinking and driving, wearing sunblock, and heeding water safety precautions to avoid drownings. Enjoy the holiday, but stay safe!

CLICK HERE FOR MORE FROM DR. JANETTE NESHEIWAT

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