Last week, week one of the US shutdown, President Trump expressed hope that the American economy could be open for business by April 12, Easter Sunday this year.
Those hopes were dashed by predictions that cases and US deaths from the coronavirus will be peaking at that time. The new target date to reopen the economy is April 30.
Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, warned that even if the US does everything right, we could still be looking at 200,000 dead.
Testing, antibodies, and numbers
The US now has the most reported cases of coronavirus of any country on the planet, but that might be because we have done the most testing of any country so far. As of today, one million people have been tested in the US. The latest testing development is an Abbot Labarotory POC, point of care test, that produces results within 5 to 15 minutes. The test received emergency authorization from the FDA.
The other test being developed is the antibody test. Several labs, the Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota, and others are working on antibody tests. The entire town of Telluride, Colorado is being tested with an antibody test right now.
Antibody tests can identify who has been exposed to COVID-19 and has either been asymptomatic or had a mild case of the virus and now has immunity. Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota explained the significance of knowing whether someone has been exposed and has immunity: “Identifying people with immunity to the virus “gives us the ability [to know] who wouldn’t need to be quarantined, who could be out and not infecting others.”
Knowing who has immunity could set a significant number of the US population free and help areas of the country that aren’t experiencing high rates of infection to get back to work.
According to STAT:
The “serological” tests — which rely on drawn blood, not a nasal or throat swab — can identify people who were infected and have already recovered from Covid-19, including those who were never diagnosed, either because they didn’t feel particularly sick or they couldn’t get an initial test. Scientists expect those individuals will be safe from another infection for at least some time — so the tests could signal who could be prioritized to return to work or serve as a frontline health worker.
Antibody testing can also help scientists to develop a treatment using blood plasma from coronavirus survivors. This type of treatment has been used in the past during the 1918 Spanish Flu, the Ebola crisis, and Avian Flu.
Again, according to STAT:
Patients who have recovered from a disease have permanent antibodies generated by the immune system floating in their blood plasma, the liquid component of blood. To turn that into a drug, the plasma is harvested, tested for safety, and purified to isolate those protective antibodies. When injected into a new patient, the “plasma-derived therapy” — also known as convalescent plasma — provides “passive immunity” until the patient’s immune system can generate its own antibodies.
Antibody testing is also important for scientists who need numbers and data to be able to assess the true impact of Covid-19 here in the US. With a truer number of cases, scientists can more accurately calculate the actual death rate which so far has been difficult to do.
Rachel Maddow eats crow
Rachel Maddow had to eat crow as the USNS Comfort arrived in New York today. She said that it wasn’t possible for the ship to make it to New York for weeks.
For your enjoyment, watch:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2020