On Thursday, coronavirus-related events moved with startling rapidity
For those trying to keep up with the news about coronavirus, Thursday was an overwhelming day. The biggest news probably was California Governor Gavin Newsom ordering the entire state of California to shut down starting Friday. Additionally, Trump fast-tracked a possible treatment, and a doctor claims to have created an antibody that will soon be ready for testing. All of these things, including California’s shutdown, have the potential to be very good.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday evening announced he's enacting a "statewide order" for its nearly 40 million residents to "stay at home," a wide-reaching measure for the most populous state in the country as the coronavirus spreads.
The order taking effect midnight on Friday morning. The order prohibits gatherings outside and required nonessential businesses to close. The measure is intended to slow the spread of the virus.
“We need to bend the curve in the state of California,” Newsom said during a news conference. “There’s a social contract here. People, I think, recognize the need to do more. They will adjust and adapt as they have.”
The shutdown isn’t quite as draconian as it appears. People can shop for groceries, pharmaceutical products, and other necessities, and people with essential jobs will continue to work. However, Newsom is closing California’s social life and fitness: There will be no public events, bars, dine-in restaurants, gyms, and clubs. The mandate will be enforced only by misdemeanors and social pressure.
While the economic fallout has the potential to be terrible for those businesses that are forcibly closed, Newsom is correct that it can slow the disease’s spread, giving hospitals breathing room within which to treat affected patients, and giving scientists time to come up with medicines. Quarantines have always been the first weapon against epidemic disease. This is especially true when homeless people who are disease vectors overrun the state.
Second, speaking of medicines, Trump fast-tracked using old drugs in new ways:
President Trump announced Thursday that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is making experimental drugs -- including those used for treating malaria -- available as part of the ongoing effort to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.
Trump announced at a White House press briefing that chloroquine, a drug designed for use in malaria, will be made available to test whether it helps patients recover from coronavirus. He said it was one of a number of antiviral therapies to limit the symptoms of the virus that the administration is trying to get to Americans as quickly as possible.
“I have directed the FDA to eliminate rules and bureaucracy so work can proceed rapidly, quickly and fast,” Trump said. "We have to remove every barrier.”
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn explained during the press conference it would be allowed under what’s known “compassionate use” -- where doctors can request to use the experimental drug and get permission from the FDA to give to patients. Hahn also said he didn't want to give "false hope" but said he was hopeful about the treatments.
Not only is this excellent news, but it is also another reminder of how America’s bureaucracy, which was intended to protect people from things beyond their control (such as dangerous medicines), has turned into a punitive, foot-dragging monster.
Third, one doctor thinks he’ll have a cure ready for testing by July:
Distributed Bio co-founder and CEO Dr. Jacob Glanville revealed on "The Story with Martha MacCallum" Thursday that his company's laboratory is three to four weeks away from engineering a therapeutic antibody to combat the coronavirus.
"What my company is doing is adapting antibodies to recognize and neutralize the novel coronavirus. So this would ... [be] sort of skipping what a vaccine does," Glanville said. "Instead of giving you a vaccine and waiting for it to produce an immune response, we just give you those antibodies right away. And so within about 20 minutes, that patient has the ability to neutralize the virus."
Glanville told MacCallum that once his colleagues are done engineering the antibodies they will send it to the U.S. military before eventually conducting a human study this summer.
Again, this is excellent news and a great reminder that this is neither 1348 nor 1918. Our ability to understand the inside working of viruses and the human body gives us advantages unlike any others in human history.
And here’s one more thing, sort of food for thought. A tragic story emerged in New Jersey: Four members of a single family (an elderly mother, and her three middle-aged children) all died from coronavirus. From their names, it’s clear that the family is Italian.
Coronavirus, of course, is wreaking havoc in Italy. There are factors in Italy that don’t exist in America: Hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers traveling back and forth between Italy and China, an aged population, heavy smoking, and terrible air pollution. However, reading about that poor family made me wonder whether there’s a genetic aspect to people’s vulnerability to the disease. After all, we already know that people’s blood type may affect them, so why not other genetic traits too?
And that’s the latest big news on the coronavirus front.