Patience to live or anxious to die
BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Ambassador B. Romualdez (The Philippine Star) - June 28, 2020 - 12:00am

Undoubtedly, what is happening here in the United States is alarming. The past few days has shown a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in at least 26 states according to data from the Johns Hopkins University, with a record-high 40,401 new cases for a single day last Thursday, surpassing previous records set. While the number of cases has reached over 2.4 million and the death toll is now more than 124,000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the numbers are most likely “vastly understated” with a great possibility that for every case that has been reported, there were actually 10 other infections that went unreported.

California has seen a jump of 32 percent in hospitalizations, with other states also showing the most disturbing surges. These include Florida with confirmed cases now close to 110,000; Arizona, with health officials confirming that over 80 percent of hospital beds are being fully utilized and could result in an overrun in the healthcare system; and Texas, which has also seen an increasing number of admissions, prompting its governor to warn that the state is facing a “massive outbreak.”

Other states that are also showing an upsurge in infections are South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Missouri and Utah with some governors warning that they may announce new lockdown measures. In fact, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are now requiring travelers coming from eight other states with high COVID-19 cases – namely Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Texas – to submit themselves to a 14-day quarantine period. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also warned that anyone who violates the quarantine protocols will face stiff fines that could reach up to $10,000.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the most credible infectious diseases expert in the US, has warned that “the next couple of weeks are going to be critical” in the ability of the US to address the alarming surge of infection and increased community spread. Nevertheless, he is cautiously optimistic that a COVID-19 vaccine will be developed by the end of this year or early next year.

We all know this is really a balancing act between life and death or between the economy and the health and wellbeing of individuals. Anxiety and patience are what most countries are experiencing including the Philippines – or in Tagalog, “kaliwa’t kanan dedbol” with its exact translation: “left or right, we’re dead.”

More than ever, our only way out of this catastrophe is the discovery of a vaccine. The US government is in fact pouring more than $3 billion into the development of a vaccine against COVID-19 as quickly as possible by six pharmaceutical companies. One of them is AstraZeneca that has signed a development deal with the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and received $1.2 billion in funding.

Th UK-based pharma giant, which is at the forefront of the race to develop a vaccine, is now at the late stage of clinical trials with results that have been promising. AstraZeneca said it will start commercial supply in September and has committed 300 million doses to be delivered to the US by October.

Johnson & Johnson, which received $456 million in funding, is also accelerating its timeline and expects to start late stage clinical trials in September. Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna, which received $430 million and is expected to start phase 3 trials in July, has recently partnered with Catalent for the production/manufacturing of about 100 million doses targeted this October.

It is sad that when people are too anxious to go out, acting as if the virus does not exist, refusing to wear masks and flouting social distancing protocols, the rate of infection exponentially increases.

In North Texas for example, 18 members of a family that include two young children, elderly parents and a female suffering from cancer tested positive for COVID after attending a surprise birthday party late in May. And the sad part is that the virus was spread by one family member who did not know he was already infected and was most likely exposed at work.

In Florida, authorities are blaming the rapid rate of community infection to the young people who couldn’t wait to go out and enjoy the summer, hitting the beaches, partying, eating in restaurants, not practicing social distancing and refusing to wear masks.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has also pleaded with Californians, especially the young people who are anxious to return to “normal,” to be careful and think of their moms and dads and grandparents. Wear masks, maintain a safe distance and increase handwashing, he urged.

The more people insist on going back to the way things were before the onset of the pandemic, the more they will be putting themselves and the people they come into contact with in great danger of getting infected. Europe, once considered as the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, was able to significantly reduce the number of infections following months of lockdown and restrictions. However, health authorities are warning young people against impromptu parties and raves because this could trigger a resurgence of infections that could set back all the progress made in fighting the pandemic.

Clearly, the only available solution for now is to follow the protocols of social distancing and wearing a mask. Wearing a mask and breathing on our own is better than being intubated and breathing artificially with a ventilator. It is clearly a choice of either being patient to live or being anxious to die.

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