The outlet Newswise yesterday held a live expert panel discussion on “some of the unique angles to the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects on all aspects of daily life around the world.”
The following edited excerpts are of interest to doctors of chiropractic for their own and patient information, and for general health care practitioners.
Experts from institutions included:
- Matthew Kavanagh, director of the Global Health Policy & Governance Initiative at Georgetown University
- Christian Walzer, chair, Conservation Medicine Unit — Wildlife Scientist
- Anat Admati, professor of finance and economics, Stanford Graduate School of Business
- Stephanie Preston, behavioral neuroscientist, University of Michigan
Wildlife origins of the disease
WALZER: The coronaviruses are a really large group of viruses, they are so called RNA viruses, they’re very, very prevalent in domestic livestock. You’ll find them in cattle and pigs, in our pets, they’re quite common in cats and dogs. They don’t — and obviously also in humans but what we’re particularly interested in here in this context is the large number of coronaviruses that circulate in wildlife species.
We will see those a lot in bats of course, it’s got a lot of press obviously recently, some of the studies have shown up to 500 different coronaviruses in some species of bats. What’s really important to understand is that coronavirus are not pathogens in that sense, they’re just carried by the animal, they occur there naturally, they do not cause disease. It is only when they evolve and spill over into other species that they do cause and sometimes cause disease.
There have been two important other ones. That’s been the original SARS outbreak back in 2002/2003, where the origin was also sourced in the bat species and then there was an intermediate host; 2012 is the MERS outbreak where also the ancestral host is assumed to be a bat and the intermediate host is a dromedary camel which can transmit the virus. They are pretty rare events but as you know, when they do occur, they have massive implications.
Do we need home testing and how would that occur?
KAVANAGH: From a policy perspective, there is a number of regulatory hurdles that a home test would usually go through that would usually take quite some time. Now, what we know is that FDA has a number of different channels through which it can move much faster in crisis and in which it’s doing so and so there’s the all chances that we will see an at-home test coming soon. It’s not that there are no technologies out there, it’s a question of overcoming a number of regulatory barriers and of course testing to make sure that the test itself is effective. That is one path to moving things quickly.
Had we taken the time, this is core message that I have is, had we taken the time that was achieved by China’s response overall, we actually had months to prepare for the pandemic when it was coming and so things like ramping up testing, figuring out how to get an at-home test, figuring out how to saturate the communities that are affected with testing, that could have put us on a very different trajectory that looks much more like what happened in South Korea, where they were able to engage — they didn’t have to lock down entire cities, instead they used rational social distancing policies along with blanket testing and what they were able to achieve has been a flattening off of the new infections that looks nowhere near what Italy is seeing or what now the United States is seeing but unfortunately the political choice was not to focus on, for example, making an at-home test available sooner.
WALZER: I just wanted to reinforce the point both Matthew and Anta just said, the testing is clear. I’m a wildlife veterinarian, if I worked the way this is going at the moment without testing and tried to come up with policies and ideas, that’s absolutely mayhem, there is no way you could work like that. When we state things like there are a lot of coronaviruses out in bats, that’s because there’s been a lot, a lot of testing ongoing in the last 10 years. I just really want to reinforce that, so that doesn’t sort of disappear. We need to test more on all levels.
Do front-line workers have enough protection?
THOM CANALICHIO [MODERATOR]: There was a question about the PPE, the personal protective equipment, and policy about that and some health care workers having consequences when they complain publicly about it. I did miss that as we were discussing some other topics. I’m not sure if any of the experts that are still with us might want to respond to that? Nurses and other health care workers facing consequences, like losing their jobs when they complain publicly about the lack personal protective equipment. Dr. Admati, did you have anything you wanted to say about that?
ADMATI: Whistleblowers often suffer and I’ve encountered some in the context of all kinds of corporate wrongdoings and financial fraud and other things like that and so now the people on the frontline are these nurses and health care providers and if they are put in a position where they have to risk their lives, they are also endangering others and we really need them.
If we have breakdown of the governance of our health care system in terms of the people in the frontline and the people making decisions who are suppose to supply them with these masks and this equipment, it becomes an economic question. Back to the competition, our president and our federal government has allowed states to go competing for masks in the open market and that is just unconscious able. We have to collaborate, even within this country, rather than start fighting over these things that are so essential for people’s lives. Once again, you see a cynical way of approaching it rather than the sensible, human, sociable way of approaching. I would be worried about whistleblowers and I would find channels for them to speak so that they are not suffering the consequences, it’s hugely important.
PRESTON: I just want to say how hugely important it is to public health to allow these people to speak because those are the times when people get a very salient, meaningful understanding of threat. You have to see it from the frontline to really internalize how big a problem it is. It’s to the hospital’s benefit for people to understand how grotesque things are at the hospital right now because then they’ll take more precautions and then you won’t have so many people showing up at the hospital.
This morning there was women who said, ‘I don’t care if I get fired from my job, you need to know what things are like,’ and she mentioned having a refrigerated truck to put bodies and it’s almost taboo to even say something like that. It’s so terrible. You need to know how terrible things are to titrate your risk and people, if they don’t know how terrible it is, they’re not going to avoid risk.
What will be the impact of the roughly $6 billion U.S. emergency bill being passed?
ADMATI: I would characterize it as having occasionally a few useful things but overall, it’s being incredibly evident of the misguided financialization of the whole entire enterprise. We’re here because we have a health care, public health crisis. Our president in particular and others are extremely focused on, call it, the stock market. Metrics of this sort, as if they measure what we need, even as an economy not just as a society in terms of what we value. Now we’re starting to talk about people prioritizing the stock market over people’s lives, let a half million people die they say.
Now, I go back to and I’m glad it came up because that was going to be my point as well and I just want to reinforce, testing is critical and again, we are victims right now and ongoing to the broken politics of this country and of the world right now. Exactly echoing the political scientist said, as somebody who is interested in political economy. I can speak to the financial implications and to all the different pieces of this but I’m going to stop right here to say, this favors corporations over individuals and in that sense, it’s very misguided policy. There would have been better ways to spend a lot of money to solve the underlying problem.
WALZER: I really agree with what everyone said just before me. It’s interesting who’s doing the speaking and who actually has the knowledge, there is obviously a disjunct there which is massive. The other one, it’s come up several times, we knew about this.
I just want to point out that already in 2018, the WHO had put this so-called Disease X on their list, which exactly what we have now, it’s not a surprise. There have been media reports, in the fall of 2019 there was an exercise, a scenario just to see about responsiveness here in the United States and I’m sure this happened somewhere else, it’s not only about it happening here…The problem of translating I think has come up as well today, translating science into policy, we really failed there sometimes, the time is too long and too complicated and then obviously we all suffer from discounting the future. Future threats don’t harm us as much as what’s going to happen tomorrow.
To read the entire transcript or watch the video of the conference go to newswise.com/articles/covid-19-update-the-relief-package-coronavirus-origins-2020-election-newswise-live-expert-panel-for-march-26-2020.
For the latest COVID-19 info for doctors of chiropractic, including upcoming webinars, updates, resources and articles from Chiropractic Economics, go to chiroeco.com/coronavirus-covid-19.