COVID Update 7-31-20

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We believe we are seeing a flattening of the curve again, meaning the growth of new Covid 19 cases in Arizona has slowed down. We are now averaging around 2400 new cases a day, down from just over 3000 a day two weeks ago. However, this change still represents a much higher plateau then we ever expected.

The number of deaths unfortunately continues to go up. As of today, we now have 3,694 deaths in Arizona officially attributable to Covid 19. Nationwide, there are just over 150,000 reported deaths.

On the good news side, hospitals here in Tucson have fewer patients with Covid19, and patients are no longer being sent out of Tucson for care. Indeed, at TMC (where I am on staff), the number of beds committed to Covid patients is being reduced, and this week the number of patients with confirmed Covid is about half of what it was last week.

When the virus was first spreading at the beginning of the year, there was a belief it would behave like the flu and other respiratory viruses and become less frequent in the summer. We clearly have not seen that happen, and even in countries that have done a much better job then the US in controlling the virus, there continue to be outbreaks. We now realize that at least for the immediate future we will not see the virus return to low levels, and that the main hope for controlling it rests with a vaccine.

There continues to be encouraging information on vaccines, with one candidate entering the final phase of testing, and two other candidates soon to enter that phase as well. As I pointed out in another message, these phase 3 trials do not always end successfully, yet so far the data from phase 1 and phase 2 trials has been good. Specifically, the Moderna vaccine has been shown to achieve impressive results in Monkeys.

Since the different vaccines which are furthest along in testing utilize different methodologies, it remains unclear which one might work the best. I believe the Covid vaccine story will be like the Polio vaccine story of the 1950’s. The Salk vaccine was the first one available and was a wonderful development, yet it was the Sabin (or oral) vaccine introduced just a year or two later that proved to be the safer and more effective one.

Finally, I must continue to emphasize the need to wear a mask or other face covering while in public. It remains the single best way we have to prevent the spread of the virus. Take care and have a good week.