Earlier this week, Governor Newsom shared some encouraging news about California’s COVID-19 positivity rate, which dropped by 2 percentage points, to 4%, over the past 14 days compared to the two weeks prior.
We’re moving in the right direction, but we would be remiss to think we’ve truly turned the corner on this pandemic. Rather, this progress means we must be even more vigilant, to guard against a premature resumption of activities that could set us back months.
A couple of other events happened this week that underscore that concept. First, Labor Day weekend did not seem to deter large crowds from gathering – on beaches, in rivers, at the state Capitol, at one another’s homes. Second, a promising COVID-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University had its Phase 3 trials put on hold after a patient experienced a serious adverse event.
At the risk of sounding gloomy, we’ve got a long road to go before things start to feel “normal” again.
Consider – on the vaccine front:
- A fully tested and approved vaccine is not likely for several months at least, and that vaccine will then have to be manufactured and distributed on a global scale.
- Beyond the manufacture and distribution of the vaccine is the concern that we have trouble getting people vaccinated for the regular flu (in California only about 50% get the vaccine) and have hard work in front of us once the vaccine is available to get people to get a shot.
- The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Equitable Allocation of Vaccine for the Novel Coronavirus has released a Preliminary Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine. This is a starting point that includes a tiering of population groups for prioritization, but there will be significant conversation before the final framework is completed.
- If California’s Crisis Care Guidelines serve as a predictor of developing a plan for managing scarcity, the debate over vaccine distribution will be both heated and complex.
And here in California:
- The new system Gov. Newsom has outlined for when counties can reopen is just a couple weeks old. It calls for a more stringent process to reopen activities and for counties to shift among four levels of COVID-19 spread. By design, this approach entails a more gradual, purposeful reopening strategy.
- Many schools have yet to begin in-person education, though pressure is mounting in some areas to do so more quickly, which could also undermine the progress thus far.
- The 2020 flu season has not yet hit, and its impact may further stretch tired health care workers.
All of this points to California living with the effects of COVID-19 for an extended period of time, and as we settle in for the long fight, I take heart in knowing that hospitals are standing together, supporting one another, and unflinchingly committed to make sure Californians in need get care.