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Public Health May Be US Election Loser As Coronavirus Surges

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Public Health May Be US Election Loser As Coronavirus Surges

Regardless of the presidential election outcome, a vexing issue remains to be decided: Will the U. S. be able to tame a perilous pandemic that is surging as holidays, winter and other challenges approach?

Public health experts fear the answer is no, at least in the short term, with potentially dire consequences.

Donald Trump’s current term doesn’t end until Jan. 20. In the 86 days until then, 100,000 more Americans will likely die from the virus if the president doesn’t shift course, said Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director of the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, echoing estimates from other public health experts.

The U. S. death toll is already more than 232,000 and the seven-day rolling average for new daily deaths is rising. Total confirmed U.S. cases have surpassed 9 million and new daily infections are increasing in nearly every state.

“Where we are is in an extremely dire place as a country. Every metric that we have is trending in the wrong direction. This is a virus that will continue to escalate at an accelerated speed and that is not going to stop on its own,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health expert at George Washington University.

Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association, said there are things Americans can do now to help change the trajectory.

“Regardless of the outcome of the election, everyone in America needs to buckle down,” Bailey said.

“A lot of us have gotten kind of relaxed about physically distancing, not washing our hands quite as often as we used to, maybe not wearing our masks quite as faithfully. We all need to realize that things are escalating and we’ve got to be more careful than ever,” she said.

Polls showed the public health crisis and the economy were top concerns for many Americans.

Federal health officials have said they believe a vaccine could get emergency use authorization before the end of the year. The first limited supplies of doses would then be immediately distributed to the most vulnerable populations. Doses would then gradually become more widely available.

The timeline hinges on having a vaccine that’s shown to be safe and effective, which experts note is not yet a certainty. “The vaccine has to move at the speed of science,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice at Johns Hopkins University and former Maryland state health department chief.

On the treatment front, the makers of two experimental antibody drugs have asked the Food and Drug Administration to allow emergency use of them for people with mild to moderate COVID-19, and Trump, who received one when he was sickened last month, has said he wanted them available right away.

So far, the FDA has granted full approval to only one drug – the antiviral redeliver – for hospitalized patients. Dexamethasone or similar steroids are recommended for certain severely ill patients under federal treatment guidelines.

The government continues to sponsor many studies testing other treatments alone and in combination with redeliver.

Absent a national pandemic strategy, curbing virus spread in the U. S. will depend on more Americans taking necessary precautions and the upcoming holiday season will make that a challenge, said Dr. Cedric Dark, an emergency physician in Houston.

“It’s going to be Thanksgiving, winter break for college students, Christmas time and Hannukah,” but families may have to resist close get-togethers this year, he said. Outbreaks on college campuses mean many students may be bringing the virus home and spreading it to relatives, he said.

This Post was originally published on detroitnews.com

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