When and how will our nation’s war against the coronavirus pandemic end? It’s a question on the minds of most Americans and yet no leader has spelled out a viable long-term strategy.
Healthcare leader and bestselling author Dr. Robert Pearl took on that challenge during episode 4 of the popular new podcast Coronavirus: The Truth.
You can read the transcript of Dr. Pearl’s plan below or listen to the audio link above.
Dr. Pearl’s COVID-19 War Strategy (Transcript)
Robert Pearl: On today’s Coronavirus: The Truth, I’d like to lay out a path forward with a time frame. I can guarantee that critics from all sides will quibble with the details, but the fundamental belief is that unless we’re willing to wait 12 to 18 months for that vaccine to arrive, we need for the American populace a clear, specific game plan. And we do not have it today.
First, for the next six to eight weeks, we need intense social distancing to continue. As we’ve said, that to avoid the overwhelming of the facilities. During that time, the president needs to drive production of protective equipment—protective equipment for doctors, nurses and all hospital staff; to have the ventilators built; and any supplies or medications that may be required that could become insufficient in quantity need to be produced. He has that power and needs to invoke it. As a doctor wrote on social media yesterday, ‘We’d never send a soldier into battle wearing only a bathing suit.’ We can’t send our healthcare workers into the battle that exists without the protective equipment required. We can do it. If this is a time of war, we must do it. The president must invoke those powers.
Second, I believe we need to set a specific date. Maybe May 15th or May 31st. We can call it ‘D-Day’ for ‘Deciding Day.’ We must make sure on that date that we have the equipment required in our hospitals to protect our people and to treat our patients. We need at that moment to assess the results of the clinical trials that are in place now around various medications and plasma. We should know by then whether these are effective. We can see whether the warmer weather has impacted the ease of spread of this virus. And certainly, if relief is only one month away, we should wait for that to occur. But my prediction is—and by that, I mean we don’t know, but my best guess is—that we’ll find ourselves at that point without any of these miracle cures available. And I believe at that point, on a definitive date, based upon the objective information that has been predetermined to be the deciding factors, we need to lower the amount of social isolation at a rate that will not overwhelm our facilities.
I want to emphasize this one more time: If you believe that social isolation is going to reduce the consequences of the virus, you might think that should be continued, but if you believe that, over time, as people become infected that mortality will be exactly the same then what you want to do is ease it up. Having said that, I want to make the point that those at greatest risk of dying—the elderly, those with multiple chronic disease, people with lung disease—need to stay socially distanced. They need to get the support from our nation around the housing, food, economic assistance required because, if not, they are the ones who will get infected and die from this virus at a much, much higher rate than at 0.5%. We have to during that time avoid massive arenas. The possibility of spreading the virus to 50,000 or 100,000 people who then go home and spread it to another five or 10 people each is not a risk we can take.
But the measure of how fast to ease the restrictions and open the valve should be based upon herd immunity. And, as such, we need broad testing, in a variety of geographic areas, for the antibodies. Now, there’s still much we need to understand about the immunity to this virus, but the most likely situation is that having recovered from the virus, our bodies will be protected, at least for a certain amount of time. And so the herd immunity should be the driving factor for how fast we can go. When that herd immunity is low, you’ve got to open that valve very, very slowly. As the number of people who are immune to it rise, you can progressively ease your restrictions because the chances of that virus having landed on a susceptible victim has become diminished. And so, we would increasingly or more rapidly return to normal—continuing to protect those at the greatest risk until a vaccine is available or there is an effective treatment, that has been proven, that would allow them to recover should they become ill.
The two measures therefore become hospital capacity against demand and the percent of the population with immunity. The total process will still take 12 to 18 months, but the percentage of people having to social distance during that time will become progressively less. We will win this battle when a vaccine is available, but not before then. But we need to makes sure that we protect the health of Americans from the other aspects—from the psychological, from the interpersonal and from the economic.
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*To ensure the credibility of this program, Coronavirus: The Truth refuses to accept sponsorship, outside funding sources or guests with any financial or personal conflicts of interest.