There have been more than 6 million cases of Covid-19 in the United States as states work to get infections under control and pharmaceutical companies race to find a vaccine.
But, US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said the country can aim to get the virus under control now — even before a vaccine is approved.
“We don’t need to wait until we get a vaccine or some miracle drug to get this virus under control. We can do it right now,” Adams said on Thursday. “The tools to stop this virus are already in our communities.”
“Look at New York City. They’ve gone from worst in the world to a less than 1% positivity rate for several weeks, ongoing,” he said during an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
Adams said the country has seen more medical advances in the past eight months than in the last decade.
“I’m hopeful that with what we’ve learned about the virus, with the resources we have in place, and with the prospect of a vaccine on the horizon, plus drugs like remdesivir, convalescent plasma already available, that we’re getting a handle on this virus,” he said.
The surgeon general noted that he hopes the country can drive down hospitalizations and deaths through basic public health measures.
Here’s what else he said the virus has taught us:
This flu season is going to be important: A surge in flu and Covid-19 cases at once could overwhelm health care system capacity, Adams said, adding that this period of time provides an opportunity to instill vaccine education and confidence in communities.
“We need to understand that, number one, the biggest predictor of who’s going to get the Covid vaccine is going to be, I think, who gets the flu vaccine,” Adams said. “It’s an opportunity to prime the pump and have that conversation.”
Adams noted that flu symptoms are similar to Covid-19 symptoms, making it hard to tell the two apart.
“Every flu positive that is a Covid false alarm has the potential to disrupt your workplace,” he said.
Adams said employers can make sure people have access to the flu vaccine and encourage them to get it.
The pandemic has “exploited” health disparities: Adams said people of color have been hit harder by the Covid-19 pandemic, pointing to higher hospitalization rates for Hispanic people, American Indians and Alaskan Natives, and African Americans compared to people who are White.
“Simply put, this virus is exploiting and exacerbating preexisting health disparities,” he said.
Adams said structural conditions contribute to the disparities.
“Social distancing and teleworking are critical to preventing spread of coronavirus, yet only one in five African Americans and one in six Hispanic Americans have a job that allows him to work from home,” said Adams.
“We know people of color are more likely to live in densely packed urban areas, and in multi-generational homes. They’re also more likely to use public transportation. Combined, these and other factors create a greater risk for spread of a highly contagious disease like COVID-19,” he added.