Dr. Manny Alvarez: In coronavirus response, progress being made

I know that the headlines are not looking good. The number of coronavirus cases keeps increasing. The virus appears to be present in multiple cities around the country. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has warned that the coronavirus outbreak is going to get worse. The stock market is plunging. At a media briefing, the World Health Organization labeled the outbreak a global pandemic, with more than 118,000 cases in over 100 countries. Officials are worried that many countries are not well prepared. Should we look at this situation as a glass half empty or a glass half full? As a physician practicing medicine for more than 40 years, I look at this situation as a glass half full. The reason I say this is because I do see a light at the end of the tunnel. We know what coronavirus is. We know it as the cause of a disease and we certainly know its viral anatomy. We know it is infectious and we also know that it makes older folks extremely vulnerable to severe complications. There are still questions as to whether the virus is going to like the summer months. However, if it behaves as many other viruses do, we may be happily surprised that it is going to change its behavior of contagion in the summer months. I also see the significant amount of research being conducted at multiple labs, not only in this country where incredible breakthroughs are being perfected every day. Some of them, I would argue, will forever revolutionize the mechanisms of vaccine production. I know we have a lot of work to do, and there are many secondary effects of this pandemic that are affecting the normal lives of millions of people around the planet. But in the United States, I think we will learn a lot of lessons about having a better-coordinated effort in public health. I think that if we look at our hospitals, doctors, nurses and the entire health team, we continue to have the most dedicated group of individuals on the planet. However, I do agree that perhaps at the local level in many areas there has been conflicting information that has led the public to get more confused, which in turn causes more panic. What is my final message? This too shall pass. The handling of infected patients in multiple communities is getting incredibly better. Health systems and state governments are working in a much more coordinated effort. We can now quickly isolate areas of infected patients and minimize further transmission. Patients suspected of having the coronavirus are understanding the importance of self-quarantine. Vaccine production is being analyzed at a very fast pace. The world is going to be a different place next year for several reasons. First, it will be because of the lessons we have learned. Second, it will be because of all the improvements we will make in public health initiatives. Third, it will be because of the significant importance of research that will continue to a better understanding of viral infections and how to generate faster responses in the future. Yes, the glass is half full. We should just continue to take care of each other, and we should never forget the victims of this pandemic.

Well said.  Thank you, Doctor.  Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny’s work, visit AskDrManny.com.

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