April 24, 2020

Credit: Paul Biris/Getty Images

After weeks and weeks of millions of people sheltering-in-place across the country because of COVID-19, there is talk of possibly reopening parts of the economy. Still, many public health experts insist the right conditions need to be created before we can begin to find a path back to life as we once knew it.

Yonatan Grad, assistant professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, is one of a growing chorus of voices calling for a dramatic increase in coronavirus testing. He looks at the ways this pandemic could end, and explains why much more data is urgently needed to control the spread of the disease and limit the threat of uncontrolled outbreaks.

Three Takeaways:

  • We don’t have nearly enough data to understand how widespread COVID-19 infections are, according to Grad. He’s convinced there needs to be much more diagnostic testing as well as testing for COVID-19 antibodies, to see where things stand and to be able to continually monitor the situation moving forward. With better testing capacity, there should be greater ability to trace and quarantine those with the disease.
  • Social distancing has been used to flatten the curve of infections and to slow the spread of the illness in some places. However, while the effort has helped lessen the impact of the pandemic on our health care systems, Grad says there are only two ways to end the pandemic. You need to eliminate the virus, which seems unlikely given how widespread it is, or people have to develop resistance to it through a vaccine or so-called “herd immunity.” 
  • Since there is unlikely to be sufficient resistance built up to COVID-19 over the next few months, Grad says we need to start planning for the fall when there could be a resurgence of infections, coupled with the beginning of the flu season. The director of the CDC believes the combination could make the disease more deadly.

More Reading:

coronavirus, covid19, Yonatan Grad, pandemics, Sci and Tech

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