by Makayla Mason,
Dr. Christine Blackburne, the Assistant Director of the Scowcroft Institute’s Pandemic and Biosecurity Policy Program at the Bush School of Government Affairs and Public Service (whew!), conducts a weekly update on the COVID-19 virus, and those have proved informative to the LEAP Ambassadors, so we continue to tune in.
This week, she began the video with discussing masks, stating that masks are more designed to keep those who are infected from spreading it than protecting those who do not have it from becoming infected. She explained a few basic rules for using masks such as:
- Masks need to be properly fitted.
- When taking masks off, do not touch your mouth area, and immediately wash your hands.
- Do NOT put masks on children under 2, anyone with breathing problems, or individuals who cannot remove the mask themselves.
Some people have been frustrated or confused by the changing policy on masks. Originally, only infected people were encouraged to wear masks. Now, everyone is encouraged to wear a mask. Why the change? Originally, the medical community had no idea there were so many asymptomatic carriers, and we wanted to ensure that sufficient masks existed for health care providers. Now we know that it’s very possible that 50 percent (or more) of the infected could be carriers without even knowing it, it’s important that as many as people as possible wear masks.
She then moved into answering the questions.
The first question asked if there were predictive models about the economic impact, if there are approaches for bringing people back to work, and if there are ways to “pandemic proof” the economy? The problem, she noted, is that without accurate information, we cannot make good comparisons of life and economics, and it will be difficult to get this information before 3-4 months of data.
Some people have called for allowing greater mobility, letting people catch it (especially if so many people are asymptomatic), and developing herd immunity. She points out, though, that we don’t know with accuracy what the reproductive number is (R nought). Some estimates have been in the 6 range, and this would mean that 82 percent of the people would need to be infected before herd immunity took effect.
The next question asked if the social distancing measures are just extending the curve, when do we decide to go to “Plan B,” and when do we decide it is not containable? Dr. Blackburne’s response was that social distancing measures do expand the amount of time, but this allows for medical resources to stay under capacity. If we “flatten the curve,” this will keep the number of people coming into the hospital under the capacity, and hospitals will not have to decide who lives and who dies due to lack of resources. If each wave can be kept under capacity, lives are being saved because the medical field can work. She believes that we are currently working “Plan B” and that if we start re-opening now, there will be a lot of unnecessary deaths. She thinks we are in a mitigation phase and no longer able to contain, but able to mitigate the impact caused.
The third question asked if there is proof that someone can develop antibodies and not get infected? Dr. Blackburne said yes, but with 14% of people testing positive a second time, it is unclear if they are being re-infected, or if it went dormant (it’s also possible they had a false positive and were never really infected).
There were a few questions about Texas specifically. Dr. Blackburne thinks Texas will play a big role in developing a vaccine. In regard to Texas’ peak, there are two different models, University of Washington and University of Texas at Austin, that show different peaks, both occurring before June.
Although, many scientists believe there will be a second wave in the fall…