The number of deaths from COVID-19 is closing in on 200,000. Unfortunately, experts fear that figure could go much higher as they predict an influx in cases in the next several weeks. According to former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, over half of the states have a virus transfer rate above one, which means there’s “an expanding epidemic.”
Experts feel that as the seasonal flu emerges, there will be a jump in COVID-19 cases. According to estimations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), by October 10th, the number of deaths will be somewhere between 207,000 to 218,000. While the seven-day average for fatalities had been declining since the end of August, it has started creeping back up and is higher than the 14-day average. Both of these are indications that deaths are on the rise.
With talk of vaccines being constant, many wonder how beneficial they’ll be. One concept discussed frequently is herd immunity, which is when enough people become immune to a disease that it’s not as infectious as it initially was. It doesn’t mean that the microbe disappears, though. Sometimes, this level of protection occurs naturally from survivors within a population, but comes at the cost of many deaths and takes a long time.
With COVID-19, epidemiologists believe that only a small percentage of the nation’s population has been infected and acquired some level of immunity. This means that many people are still vulnerable. To achieve herd immunity with the new coronavirus, scientists approximate that 60-70% of the population would need to obtain immunity via exposure or another way, such as a vaccine.
Vaccines are a quicker, less deadly way to reach herd immunity. This is because people can develop immunity without getting sick, so the number of deaths is much lower. Progress is being made toward having a vaccine, but it most likely won’t be widely available until the middle of next year. The concern with having a vaccine is that some individuals will choose not to receive it, which will prevent herd immunity from being reached.
While some experts are trying to find ways to prevent the spread of the virus in the future, many are looking at what we need to know now so steps can be taken in the meantime. One of the agencies addressing this is the CDC. This past Friday, they issued guidance on their website that stated the new coronavirus is spread through airborne transmission. However, today they removed that information asserting that it shouldn’t have been posted since it was an early draft that needed further review. This is yet another example of the agency backtracking on its own advice.
Many scientists have been saying for the past few months that the virus can float and linger in the air, especially indoors. This increases its ability to spread in numerous environments. With evidence mounting that the coronavirus has this trait, experts have been calling for measures to decrease transmission. With the CDC’s announcement on Friday, many hoped it would help to shift thinking and policy on ventilating indoor air, increasing social distancing, and other steps that need to be taken.
However, the latest rollback of information from the CDC has left many scientists upset. They said that this flip-flopping is causing confusion for the general public and isn’t providing the level of protection required to minimize the spread of the virus.