Friday, September 11, 2020

Remember these postcards?

California is burning. This time it’s different. I hate to admit it, but in the past I’d almost become accustomed to the fires at this time of year. The news always seemed to hype it up so that each year always had the most acres or the longest lasting fire or the most structures lost. But the 28 fires burning right now include the six largest fires in California history. Ten have evacuations in place and evacuations are in progress now for the Willow Fire in Yuba County just north of Sacramento. On top of all this, evacuees seeking shelter have to consider the pandemic, especially those at high risk. For the most current information, the Cal Fire site https://www.fire.ca.gov/daily-wildfire-report/ is updated daily.

We are all breathing smoke today, not a good thing ever, but especially when faced with a disease that attacks the lungs. And the virus will be with us long after the smoke has cleared. So today I am combing the headlines for hope because we have come a long way since March.

  1. New treatments are closer than ever. STAT News lists 19 new (as opposed to repurposed) drugs currently in clinical trials. Three are already in phase 3. I like that they cover a range of treatments. Direct treatments such as: antivirals, anti-inflammatories, monoclonal antibodies, immune cells. Plus treatment/prevention of severe side effects such as ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) and cytokine release syndrome.
  2. The NIH has started tests to evaluate existing anti-thrombotics (blood thinners) to develop a standard of care for treating patients in three situations–hospitalized, not hospitalized, and discharged–to prevent the damage from blood clots that cause organ damage, heart attacks, and strokes in COVID patients. These drugs already exist, but it is important to establish the dose and timing most effective for COVID patients.
  3. Vaccines are making progress as well. STAT News lists 16 vaccines in clinical or preclinical phases with 3 in phase 3 trials. Again, there are a variety of approaches and targets under investigation, which is very encouraging. Even AstraZeneca’s pause to investigate an illness in one of the 30,000 volunteers shows a commitment to good testing practices. According to the Johns Hopkins Newsletter, the CEO anticipates completing trials by year end.
  4. Dr. Fauci just predicted that we may be able to enjoy the theater without masks in about a year, that is starting the season in 2021. I’m happy when anyone anticipates theater openings, concerts, and football games, both because this is the phase that takes us back to enjoying life together and because of the many jobs affected by the closing of these activities.
  5. In the same vein, Germany has tracked data on three live concerts with 1500 people each with different scenarios to analyze how to understand how COVID might spread in a concert arena environment. The analysis will be completed later this year with the hope of hastening the safe opening of live events.
  6. Several news sources report that telecommuting and telemedicine are trends that will probably outlast the pandemic. Although you see opinions on both sides, I consider them positive developments.

A few months ago I started thinking in terms of an 18-month timeline for the pandemic. Not that this coronavirus is going away completely, but we will have improved management tools and hopefully be that much more prepared for the next virus. I wish I could say the same about the fires.

Today’s Notable Headlines and Resources:

“NASA’s Terra Highlights Aerosols From Western Fires in Danger Zone,” NASA, Sept. 10, 2020. https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2020/nasas-terra-highlights-aerosols-from-western-fires-in-danger-zone

STAT COVID-19 Drugs & Vaccine Tracker. Updated every 5 minutes. https://www.statnews.com/feature/coronavirus/drugs-vaccines-tracker/#treatments

“AstraZeneca pauses COVID vaccine trial as pandemic deaths near 900,000,” CIDRAP, Sept. 9, 2020. https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/09/astrazeneca-pauses-covid-vaccine-trial-pandemic-deaths-near-900000

“NIH ACTIV initiative launches adaptive clinical trials of blood-clotting treatments for COVID-19,” NIH, Sept. 10, 2020. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-activ-initiative-launches-adaptive-clinical-trials-blood-clotting-treatments-covid-19

“Dr. Anthony Fauci Predicts Yearlong Intermission Between Vaccine Arrival And Maskless Theater,” Deadline, Sept. 11, 2020. https://deadline.com/2020/09/anthony-fauci-theater-vaccine-yearlong-intermission-covid19-coronavirus-1234575418/

“German Experiment Tests How The Coronavirus Spreads At A Concert,” NPR, Aug. 24, 2020. https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/08/24/905534790/german-experiment-tests-how-coronavirus-spreads-at-a-concert

Why am I doing this?

The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. It is my intention to journal the events of these days from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary crisis.

You are on History’s Edge.

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