The COVID-19 pandemic hits new highs and new lows

The COVID-19 pandemic hits new highs and new lows

Antivirus: A weekly digest of COVID-19 research

This week, COVID-19 headlines were split between cautious optimism and abject despair.

On the positive side, Monday morning brought us a scrap of hope — claims from Pfizer and BioNTech that their vaccine candidate was highly effective. Their tests so far showed that it has an efficacy of about 90 percent, though that number could change with time. And before we break out the bubbly, there are still plenty of caveats to the news.

Among the downer highlights: the full data hasn’t been released yet, and this happened in a clinical trial where conditions were more controlled than they will be in the real world. It has to be delivered in two doses, weeks apart, and it’s more fragile than frost on a sunny morning — it has to be stored at temperatures of -75 degrees Celsius (-103 degrees Fahrenheit), creating a logistical nightmare for facilities ill-equipped to stock something that frigid.

Put all those asides aside, and the vaccine news is still a spark of joy in a dark time. By next week, the companies claim that they should have enough data to start building their case for emergency authorization from the FDA. That’s a pretty exciting mile marker to look forward to, even if there’s still a long way to go before we get to a vaccine.

Meanwhile, the bad news was building. Here in the US, cases hit record highs, with an average of 134,078 cases per day over the past week, according to The New York Times. The surge in cases is overwhelming emergency rooms and ICUs across the countryDeaths are on the rise. Again. States are ordering lockdowns. Again.

Healthcare workers, already exhausted, dread what comes next. “The wave hasn’t even crashed down on us yet,” Eli Perencevich, an infectious-disease doctor at the University of Iowa, told The Atlantic’s Ed Yong. “It keeps rising and rising, and we’re all running on fear. The health-care system in Iowa is going to collapse, no question.”

Skyrocketing caseloads and healthcare systems teetering on the brink of collapse mean that the US has a lot of work to do to get through the next stage of this pandemic. It’s no longer just about flattening the curve. We’ve got a cliff to conquer.

We also know that the work will be worth it if we can save lives. As The Verge’s Nicole Wetsman wrote this week, “The light is still months away, but it’s there. We only have to make sure as many people as possible can get to it.”

Here’s what else we were watching this week.

Source: Mary Beth Griggs | TheVerge

PHOTO: A worker administers a COVID-19 test at a drive through testing site in Texas
 Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

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