Dr. Gerald Parker is the Director of the Scowcroft Institute’s “Biosecurity and Pandemic Policy Program,” and he has served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Chemical and Biological Defense and as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services. In short, he is qualified to discuss the Corona Virus, and that’s what he did last, giving LEAP students an opportunity to learn more about the public crisis that is, we hope, a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Dr. Parker began by giving an overview of the ever-growing numbers of COVID cases and deaths in the US. He also pointed out the most common victims of the virus: (1) those over 65 (in Texas, 75 percent of those who die from the virus are 65 or older); (2) those with existing health conditions; (3) those in long-term care facilities (prisons and nursing homes); and (4) those in meat-packing plants.
And while the US may have peaked–at least in its first wave–there are numerous possible scenarios for how this may play out. The big takeaway, is that despite the re-opening, the virus threat has not passed. Dr. Parker saw three possible future scenarios: (1) a series of peaks and valleys; (2) a second wave in the fall; or (3) a smaller fall peak, with continuing flare ups. In many respects, the first of these may be the most difficult, at least in terms of planning. Of course, a second large wave could also make for strains on the health-care system.
To make re-opening successful, Dr. Parker advocated for: (1) getting up to speed on (a) contract tracing, (b) testing, and (c) identifying hot spots, so that additional steps can be taken in those areas; (2) continuing to practice social distancing and other common-sense measures; (3) ensuring our hospitals and other institutions are prepared should another major wave occur, which Dr. Parker thinks could be likely.
Dr. Parker’s program was educational, if sobering, and we look forward to future programs from the Bush School.