By Nick Stamatakis
As we descent deeper into the coronavirus crisis, the focus is gradually turning from containment to therapy and from isolation and “lockdown” to planning the re-opening of the economy. It was a very hopeful sign that both President Trump and NY Governor A.Cuomo stated this “re-opening” goal on Monday. Granted, in the next few days we will see some grim numbers coming out of New York and other states. This is to be expected as availability of testing increased dramatically. One number, however, is very hopeful and this is the mortality rate, steadying below 1%, and likely to drop lower. So far, we have about 700 deaths from coronavirus in the US. Let’s put this number in perspective: the flu has caused an estimated 36 million illnesses, 370,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With this number in mind let’s list a few more powerful signs of hope:
The production of personal protection equipment (PPEs) in the U.S. is exploding. Within days from the call to action from the President and the Federal Government, Αmerican industry has started its miraculous engine and the results are nothing less than amazing. Take a look at this small sample of news:
- 3M CEO says company has doubled global production of N95 masks to nearly 100 million a month.
- Ford motor company will partner with GE to make respirators and ventilators. The machinery is being retooled as we speak and the production will start in a matter of days.
- GM and Tesla will coordinate to produce a massive amount of ventilators to help patients who have trouble breathing.
- Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, acquired 1,200 ventilators from China to help alleviate the shortage.
- Many factories are retooling to manufacture masks, aprons and everything else that is needed. The use of 3D printing is also mentioned widely. The string of news on this issue is endless…
- In addition to “retooling” we see quite a few signs of American practicality and ingenuity. For example, hospital workers have invented ways allowing the use of one ventilator by four patients (link to such a video here). In other words, the ventilator shortage is already very much solved!
But more significant than good old American factories will be the impact of hi-tech industry. 1) The use of drones to inform the public and monitor and control population movement. 2) The use of robots for various purposes, mostly to reduce human to human contact – and also in the production of goods and services. 3) The use of smartphones and advanced location apps will allow controlling of those infected and recovering – among many other usages. Serious violation of privacy concerns have arisen because of the above methods – but solutions have already sprung out of this – such as “anonymized location services”. 4) Remote teaching techniques. A few months ago, it was believed that teaching through “skype” or other services was not as effective. Not anymore… After a few days of “lockdown” this has become a standard educational practice. Could anyone imagine the huge impact on the cost of middle and higher education?
Production of medicine and vaccines. A great debate has already started about the use of hydroxychloroquine in combination with Zithromax (z-pack). Just last night FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn gave his blessing to any doctor that would cautiously prescribe this medicine to coronavirus patients, despite the lack of sufficient data, after making a determination for each individual patient. A number of other existing drugs are in the testing phase; Greece today announced it was importing a very promising one, favipiravir, from Japan. Vaccines are said to require 12 to 18 months but many companies are speeding up the process and some expect to have a vaccine by the fall of 2020. For a complete review of medical treatments please take a look here.
After considering all the above progress in just a matter of days, one is certainly tempted to revisit the decisions that have been made regarding the spread of coronavirus. A top Greek epidemiologist, affiliated with Stanford University, Dr. John Ioannidis, caused quite a roar when he rightfully suggested that the whole approach to controlling the spread of the virus might be a fiasco… And also that we used the same techniques medieval societies seven centuries ago to control the spread of “Black Death” (you can hear him here in Greek as he is interviewed by an Athens radio station)… In this light, after the 15 or 20 “lockdown” days, we should certainly reconsider the whole issue and use all technological means available to allow American economy to survive (and most certainly expand in a post-coronavirus manufacturing boom, fueled by very cheap and abundant energy).
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