Early this week, President Trump appointed a new advisor, Dr. Scott Atlas, to the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force. Dr. Atlas is a radiologist, senior fellow at conservative Hoover Institution of Stanford University, and a commentator on Fox News. Before these roles, he was the chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center and advised previous Republican presidential candidates, like Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, on healthcare.
In his appearances on Fox News, Dr. Atlas has issued statements that sound very similar to the President’s views. He has called for ending lockdowns, reopening schools, and restarting college football. These types of observations aren’t likely to calm the worries of other public-health officials and Democrats who’ve felt that the President is not heeding the advice of the health experts on the Task Force. When Dr. Atlas spoke in his initial Task Force briefing on Wednesday, he said that the President has been “really focused on the very important parts of the pandemic.”
In recent weeks, President Trump has been critical of the top two medical advisors on the Task Force, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Deborah Birx, the administration’s coronavirus coordinator, because they’ve contradicted what the President has said and have been disapproving of the Administration’s response. As a result, neither has spoken at the almost daily coronavirus briefings in weeks and, most likely, was the reason Dr. Atlas was appointed. Conservative radio host, Rush Limbaugh, described Dr. Atlas as “countering Fauci.”
As the politics continue, a new report published in the online JAMA Network Open, states that the number of deaths from all causes in the first 61 days of COVID-19 pandemic was about the same as the two-month peak during the 1918 flu pandemic. The 1918 pandemic killed 50 million people globally and 675,000 in the US. So far, COVID-19 has caused 746,000 deaths worldwide and 162,000 in the US. Since the 1918 flu last about a year and a half and COVID-19 doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon, we could come close to these numbers if we don’t change what we’re doing. According to experts, the current outbreak has quadrupled the death rate, while the flu pandemic only almost tripled it.
Researchers are saying that clinical trials for experimental drugs that might work against the novel coronavirus are taking longer than expected. They’re pointing to testing delays, staffing shortages, space constraints, and reluctant patients as the reason why monoclonal antibodies aren’t making faster strides. Monoclonal antibodies are man-made drugs that copy the molecular structures created by the human immune system. The result of these impediments is a pushing back of when makers of the drugs think they’ll be ready. Those that were hoping to have doses available by the end of summer, like Regeneron, are now saying they’ll be ready by the end of September. Eli Lilly, who was wanting to have their treatment ready by September, is now indicating that it should be ready by the end of the year. While we’re waiting for a vaccine to be developed, options like these remain our best hope at treating COVID-19.