During what was predicted to be the worst week of the coronavirus outbreak in the US, the Trump administration has begun signaling that we may be closer to the end of lockdown orders than was previously thought.
Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, confirmed that the Trump administration plans to roll out millions of antibody tests to determine how many Americans have immunity to the virus in the next month, a crucial step in lifting or reducing stay-at-home orders.
The next step
Giroir said during Monday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing that “If things work out the way we believe they will, we will have millions on the market by May in a sophisticated way, in a prospective way that we get the surveillance we need. We can test people to see if they’ve been exposed, are immune, and can go back to work.”
“This allows for surveillance screening…to understand if 1%, 5%, 20% of Americans have been infected,” he explained. “But it also allows us to have very widespread tens and tens of millions of people screened with a finger prick on the spot,” adding that he’s “very excited” about the plan.
Determining just how many individuals have actually been exposed and developed immunity without showing significant symptoms has been a major roadblock in determining the true severity and rate of spread of the virus.
Some epidemiologists have speculated that the true number of asymptomatic carriers could vastly outpace current estimates, which would have a major impact on policy decisions going forward.
Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said on March 29 that “if you know that a large percentage of people have been exposed and developed some immunity, it may allow for less-restrictive measures.”
Fauci cautiously optimistic
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has become the face of the White House’s coronavirus response, has been reluctant to give any indication about when the administration may lift restrictions, but did recently express optimism about the coming school year.
Fauci said during Tuesday’s press briefing that “Bottom line is, no absolute prediction, but I think we’re going to be in good shape,” after being asked about whether schools are expected to open on time in the fall.
He expressed rare optimism, remarking that “by the time we get to the fall … we will have this under control enough that it certainly will not be the way it is now, where people are shutting schools.”
Fauci’s cautious optimism about the course of the disease is in opposition to some doctors who believe that the virus will be causing disruptions for at least 18 months.
Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a former adviser to President Barack Obama told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell on Monday that “Realistically, COVID-19 will be here for the next 18 months or more. We will not be able to return to normalcy until we find a vaccine or effective medications.”