NYT: “Pandemic will be over sooner than expected”

Begrudging credit finally given to Trump’s Operation Warp Speed
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Donald G. McNeil Jr. is a science reporter who has covered epidemics and diseases for the NYT since 1976.

He confesses that he has been “a consistently gloomy Cassandra, reporting on the catastrophe that experts saw coming: that the virus would go pandemic, that Americans were likely to die in large numbers.”

His view now: After taking the obligatory Trump-shot that, “with stronger leadership, the death toll would have been far lower”, McNeil concedes that:

Experts are saying, with genuine confidence, that the pandemic in the United States will be over far sooner than they expected, possibly by the middle of next year.

Why the sudden gush of optimism?

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McNeil acknowledges that Americans have been generally compliant with social distancing, mask wearing and personal hygiene (i.e. hand-washing).

And, he recognizes that most of the cases these days are among younger Americans who usually experience few if any symptoms …   who  rarely require hospitalization … and who have a death rate that’s close to zero.

But, McNeil gives the bulk of the credit to “the cavalry” of medical practitioners who have become highly proficient in diagnosing and treating COVID infectees … and, to the pharma researchers who have developed the vaccine candidates and therapeutic drugs (think: the Regeneron that Trump was given).

Operation Warp Speed — the government’s agreement to subsidize vaccine companies’ clinical trials and manufacturing costs — appears to have been working with remarkable efficiency.

It is expected that vaccines that are picked will have 75 to 90 percent efficacy.

It’s estimated that , by January, the factories under contract will have produced enough vaccine for 30 to 40 million people, and then another 80 to 90 million people every month after that.

Assuming nothing goes wrong, there will be enough doses for all 330 million Americans to be vaccinated by next June.

About half of Americans have told pollsters that they are reluctant to take a vaccine.

Nonetheless, I believe that hesitancy may dissipate.

So, there’s reason to be optimistic.

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So who should  get the credit?

McNeil is hesitant to give credit where it’s due: to President Trump … who, early on, laid the groundwork and initiated Operation Warp Speed.

In September 2019, Trump received a report titled “Mitigating the Impact of Pandemics through Vaccine Innovation”.

In a nutshell::

“The administration was well aware of the threat of a pandemic before the novel coronavirus emerged … and there was “immediate presidential action” to implement the report’s recommendations.

Specifically:

On Sept. 19, a few days after receiving the report, the president signed Executive Order 13887.

The essence of the Executive Order:

It is the policy of the United States to modernize the domestic virus vaccine enterprise to be highly responsive, flexible, scalable, and more effective at preventing the spread of viruses.

This is a public health and national security priority, as viruses have the potential to significantly harm the United States and our interests, including through large-scale illness and death, disruption to military operations, and damage to the economy.

The EO created several initiatives to modernize vaccine production, including “incentives for the development and production of vaccines by private manufacturers and public-private partnerships.”

In other words, the September 2019 White House report and the EO that quickly followed laid the groundwork for Operation Warp Speed — perhaps, the most critical component of the coronavirus response, hastening the development and launch of therapeutic drugs and vaccines.

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My take: Trump can be criticized for his rhetoric and and lack of virtue signaling … but he scored big on the actions that really mattered: the Chinese travel ban, the 15 Days to Slow the Spread and Operation Warp Speed.

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For more detail on Operation Warp Speed, see our long ago prior post What did Trump know, when did he know it and what did he do about it?

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