These are unhappy times in the coronavirus war. The number of infections in Mississippi is rising too rapidly. People living or working in McComb and Magnolia have been ordered to wear masks. And on Monday Gov. Tate Reeves put extra restrictions on Walthall County, where the number of cases has spiked.
This is when it’s hard to remember that we will be done with all this one day. Fortunately, The Washington Post website included a column last week by Joseph G. Allen, a Harvard School of Public Health professor who provided “six positive developments to remind us that there is hope in this crisis.”
• Therapeutic care is improving and will make a difference before vaccines do. Scientists have engineered clones of the coronavirus’ antibodies, and they show promise for the treatment of patients who have the infection, as well as preventing someone from becoming infected.
• Rapid, low-cost saliva tests are on the way, and they should be a game-changer when it comes to early detection of the virus, which would play a key role in stopping its spread. “These are like home pregnancy tests, but for COVID-19,” Allen wrote. “Imagine a test you could take at home every day, that gives you an answer in a few minutes after spitting into a vial and costs only $1 to $5.” The saliva tests are not 100 percent accurate, but Allen believe their speedy results and ability for frequent tests is more important.
• Wearing masks is catching on — certainly not with everybody, but more people are using them, whether by choice or the decree of an employer or elected official. “What was once awkward and unusual (in the United States, anyway) has now become more accepted,” Allen wrote. “More states and businesses are requiring them. ... We now see leaders in red states urging mask-wearing.”
• There is consensus that airborne transmission of the virus is a larger problem than originally thought. “Airborne transmission” refers to particles that linger for a long time, as opposed to those from coughs, which settle much more quickly. The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization did not acknowledge this until last week. This will encourage better building ventilation and filtration, along with the use of portable air-cleaning devices.
• Several studies show that some people who have not been exposed to the COVID-19 virus have immune cells, apparently from common colds, that react to the new virus. If accurate, this is the immune system asserting itself.
• Some vaccine trials “seem to be working.” Allen wrote, and drug manufacturers believe they will be able to deliver doses as soon as October, though actual shots for the public would take a few more months. If a vaccine arrives that quickly, it will set a speed record for the development of such medicine by several years.
“For the first time in history, nearly every scientist in the world is focused on the same problem,” Allen concluded. “This is starting to pay real dividends.” With all the depressing virus news of late, the promise that several forms of help are on the way provides much-needed hope.