Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

155. Holiday gatherings revisited

         Q.Family gatherings over the holidays – what’s the latest?

         A:  The COVID-19 pandemic is explosively expanding throughout the US and Connecticut.  The risk of contracting the disease is now greatly increased.  Indoor meetings are especially at risk.  There has been a flood of recent public information cautioning people to limit family gatherings to just people living in their household.

  • Thanksgiving Day and weekend:
    • If you have followed the prolific advice and are having your celebration with just those with whom you daily eat, watch TV, and say goodnight every day, but yet you still feel a bit guilty, remember the adage, “We isolate so that when we gather later, no one will be missing,”
    • If you have decided to take the risk anyway, and are meeting with one or more friends and remote family members, there are a few things to consider to reduce a bit more the risks you are assuming;
      • Wear masks inside except when eating. If you can blow out a candle while wearing your mask, it is not an effective barrier.
      • Open windows and use a fan to exchange air and ventilate indoor space.
      • Eat outdoors if you can.
      • Consider using straws with a mask when socially drinking.
      • Space chairs more than 6 feet apart around a table. This may result in using several extra tables, maybe in different rooms.
    • Make contingency plans in advance so you will know what to do if someone comes down with a fever after they arrive, or tells you they had been in contact with another person who tested positive a few days earlier.
    • Review again the CDC guidelines about celebrating Thanksgiving to pick up other suggestions to reduce your risk.[1]

  • Christmas and New Year’s Eve
    • If you are planning to celebrate with just those in your household, BRAVO!
    • If you are even considering going out to meet or party with others, look over the CDC guidelines given above just one more time, substituting the words “Christmas” or “New Year’s Eve” for the word “Thanksgiving.”.1

 156. Vaccinations are around the corner, but not right away.

          Q: When can we get vaccinated?

          A:  One vaccine, produced by Pfizer, has applied to the FDA for authority to ship the vaccine to the states to vaccinate people.  Another company, Moderna, is anticipating it will seek similar approval in the near future.  AstraZeneca has also announced it will soon seek approval.  But there are a few remaining steps that must be followed.

  • An independent board of scientists must review the data collected from the Phase 3 clinical trial for each applicant to verify its safety and effectiveness.
  • After the FDA reviews the independent board’s findings and issued its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), the White House has to activate its “Operation Warp Speed” distribution system. Planned to be carried out by the military, doses that are already manufactured will be shipped to a location in each state.  The state will then repackage the number of doses for each local “point of delivery” (“POD”) site where they will continue to be held until they are injected.  The logistics for this process may take some time.
    • For Pfizer, the vaccine must be stored in super-cold storage (minus 94 degrees F).  A continuous resupply of dry ice will be needed to store the vaccine in each of its locations in Connecticut before it is given.
    • There will need to be staffing available to receive, repackage and transport the doses throughout Connecticut.
    • Recordkeeping is needed for timely reminders to be sent out alerting each person to come back to receive their second dose.
    • The transportation and staffing costs for this effort was anticipated to be provided by the federal government. As of last week, there is no money authorized to pay for this.  Further delays can be expected.
  • Priority vaccination of essential health care workers and first responders are expected to take place by January 2021. People at risk due to health conditions or over the age 0f 65 will follow – probably in late winter into spring of next year.  The general public should then expect to begin their vaccinations by next summer into next fall.  Over time, more accurate target dates can be expected.
  • Patience will be required! It has to be remembered that until at least three-quarters of the public receive the vaccination, people will still be contracting COVID-19 disease.  Wearing of masks and social distancing will need to continue by everyone for many months to come.  Even some of those vaccinated will be at risk. If the vaccine is 90% effective, 100 people out every 1,000 receiving the vaccine will not be protected by it.

157.  Eli Lilly’s monoclonal therapeutic is granted an EUA for general use

          Q:  What’s the latest in treatment for COVID-19?

          A: Early in October, president Trump was admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to be treated for COVID-19.  While there, he was given an “antiviral cocktail” drug being tested by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.[2]  This was a new medication still undergoing clinical trials.  Initial data showed it had a positive effect in suppressing advancement of the disease if taken early in its progression.  Using this and other approved medications, Trump recovered.  Among other pharmaceutical companies testing similar drugs, Eli Lilly on November 9th was granted an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) approval for its version called “Bamlanivimab,” a monoclonal antibody.

It is now available for people over age 65 or with underlying health conditions.  Monoclonal antibodies are synthetic antibodies that are given intravenously to block the virus from spreading the infection within the body.  It works on patients with mild to moderate symptoms and serves to reduce the risk of later hospitalization.  This creates a dilemma – IV Infusions are usually given in hospitals but eligible patients will not be hospitalized.  The logistics on where people go to receive this medication are being worked out nationally.

It is not for everyone, officials warn.  In addition to the limitations placed on its use by the FDA, the number of initially available doses is quite limited.  Connecticut is now receiving its initial allotment of 1,050 doses.  The federal government has agreed to purchase 300,000 doses which will be delivered to all 50 states during 2021.

Regeneron’s drug that was used to treat president Trump was granted an EUA just last Saturday.  That approval is for a combination (or cocktail) of its two drugs “Casirivimab” and “Imdevimab.”  This approval is for the same treatment protocols as Eli Lilly’s’ Bamlanivimab.

[1] To open this website, copy the entire URL (“https://…..”.) from the text, and copy it into the search window on your web browser and hit enter.

[2] See FAQ #126