MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Is the coronavirus curve flattening in South Florida? To answer that question and many more, Dr. Aileen Marty took the time to speak with CBS4’s Eliott Rodriguez and Rudabeh Shahbazi on Wednesday night.
“We’re doing a fairly good job here in South Florida now that the state has locked down, and that more people are adhering to the concept of social distancing and wearing masks when they go outside,” the infectious disease specialist said. “Many people have recognized that is important, not just to their own health, but to diminish that curve for everybody else.”
The conversation then shifted to the timeline for a vaccine. According to Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, the lead researcher at the National Institute of Health, the best case scenario see first responders vaccinated by fall and the general population by next spring.
“That would be wonderful. I just don’t believe that’s going to actually be the case because the studies take time,” Dr. Marty said. “This is a complicated virus that reacts with the immune system in very complicated ways. And while I certainly hope that timeframe is realistic, I don’t think it is I think it’s going to take longer, and that’s the reality.”
Even though the vaccine is really the ultimate solution, an effective treatment would also be a huge game changer. Dr. Marty was asked what kind of progress is happening on that front?
“There’s a lot of progress happening in terms of antivirals. Some of the early results coming back from some of the newer antivirals that have been tried have been very promising. A new result back on remdesivir looks very promising,” she said. “When we think of antivirals, one thing is to talk about antivirals as a treatment. The other is another avenue that we’re pursuing is an antiviral as a prophylactic for as a post-exposure drug. If you take a post-exposure drug or a prophylactic, that would be the equivalent of having a vaccine in terms of being able to knock a virus out of the population. So we’re looking at many fronts all at the same time. And we’re working very cooperatively with scientists all over the world because truly, this is an international problem, not just a problem for South Florida.”
While vaccines and treatments are being developed, one of the best lines of defense is social distancing. The state surgeon general recently said social distancing may be necessary for more than a year.
“Well, I think what he’s looking at is the reality that there is a constant flow of humanbeings. Plus, we know that this virus can be the SARS-CoV-2 virus can bind to the equivalent receptors in certain animals. We’re very concerned about whether virus can be transmitted to animals, and how that might impact on the overall pandemic for humans,” she said. “So there’s a lot of questions that we’re still working on, and he’s being very cautious, and he wants to make sure that we have something in place that’s going to protect people such as a vaccine, or, as I mentioned, one of these antivirals that could keep, you know, keep us allow us to go back into normal system sooner.”
Dr. Marty was then asked was then asked about the importance of testing after Abbott Laboratories announced it could be screening up to 20 million people for COVID-19 antibodies.
“Well, it’s very important to look at the antibody reactions. We’re going to be looking at IgGs and IgMs. And already here is in Miami, in South Florida, for example, is already on the move looking at IgG and IgM. Screening for that that’s very important, because it gives us an idea of who’s been exposed who no longer has symptoms and whether they’ve been exposed for a short time or a long time,” she said. “But even with that, we have to be cautiously optimistic because remember, just because somebody has developed antibodies is not a certainty that those antibodies are good quality antibodies that are actually functioning to keep the virus is down. We’re still working to try and understand that aspect as well.”
We’ve seen the hospital system in New York come under incredible strain. Dr. Marty was asked how that compares with South Florida.
“Well, right now we have enough hospital beds. We are a little bit short on ICU beds. But the hospital administrators of our various hospital systems within South Florida have been working very hard since early March to try and increase their bed capacity,” she said. “I’m very proud to see that they’ve done a bang up job. FIU has actually provided ventilators and shields in terms of PPE to some of the hospital systems here to try and help with the shortage issues that we have.”
Lastly, Dr. Marty discussed the Trump administration’s decision to freeze funding to the World Health Organization.
“Well, the World Health Organization is something that belongs to all of us, including the United States. It was founded as part of the United Nations. And actually, it’s a very complex entity. In fact, it works because of scientists all over the world, including at the Centers for Disease Control, which is one of the collaborating centers for WHO. So when you take away money from WHO, you’re also taking away money from places like the Centers for Disease Control,” she said. “The reality is it’s a vital organization needed desperately right now, not just for the world for the United States, but for the entire world, particularly countries that do not have the resources by themselves to get rid of this virus. And until we recognize that this virus is actually a threat to every human on the earth, not just to citizens of one city or another, until we come together and we utilize this fantastic organization that we helped create, we the United States helped create, then we are simply not doing our best to get rid of this pandemic and to solve this horrific problem that all humanity is facing.”