Epidemiological insider on lessons from two-millionth coronavirus case

Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath discusses the state of coronavirus response and what's ahead with...
Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath discusses the state of coronavirus response and what's ahead with Washington Correspondent Kyle Midura. (Source: Gray DC) (GRAYDC)
Published: Jun. 12, 2020 at 2:30 PM CDT
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The U.S. has been infected with more than two-million reported cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began. That’s according to tracking data from Johns Hopkins University.

Kyle Midura asked Michelle McMurry-Heath, head of the largest trade group representing pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions about reaching that alarming milestone. You can find find an edited version of their conversation in the video player above, and a transcript below.


Kyle Midura – Washington Correspondent:

Is that the figure we should be looking at moving forward, should we be considering cases per day, deaths per day, hospital capacity?

Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath -- President and CEO of Biotechnology Innovation Organization:

Well, all of those measures are important, but of course, this two-million marker is just devastating. We must remember that this signifies that we have just seen an unprecedented effect of this virus in such a short period of time

Kyle: We are seeing most states continue to move forward with reopening even as we see new moves up in the numbers of cases in several areas. Do we have the capacity now to handle a spike?


Well, I think it’s important for us to be open to course correction and we always need to follow the science. We are learning new things about this virus each and every day, and as we get that new knowledge, we need to adapt, otherwise, the virus will win.

Kyle: What are the key unknowns, what do we really need to figure out in order to truly contain this thing?


We think we understand transmissibility, but we don’t completely understand transmissibility. We don’t understand some of the new syndromes we’re seeing, syndromes in kids, syndromes in terms of the immune storms some patients face after they’re infected with the virus. We don’t fully under the durability of immunity to this virus, and we’re going to be learning a lot more about that as vaccines come online as well.

Kyle: When we look at vaccine development, what’s a reasonable timeline?

McMurry-Heath: We’re already starting to see several vaccine candidates announcing that they’re going to be going into phase three clinical trials towards the end of the summer and into the fall. Phase three is the very last step, the very last test that a new vaccine or drug has to pass before it’s available to the public to use. Sometimes those phase three studies take us some time. And, of course, we have to pay very close attention to the data.

Kyle: Are you confident that we have a good big picture of just exactly what we’re dealing with as far as spread within the community?


I’d like nothing more to say that I was confident that we have fully wrapped our arms around that scope, but I’m not sure that we have today. We’re getting more and better and more reliable information, every day. This is an amazing amount of scientific collaboration and progress in a very short amount of time, and that is the good news.

Kyle: Finally, when you look at mass protests across the country, do you have any idea when we might know whether that could potentially increase coronavirus’ spread?


I and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization stand behind what the protesters are out there advocating for. But, it’s very important, if you’re out there standing up for your rights, if you’re out there speaking up, be sure to protect yourself, and be sure to protect your family. So, I do hope that the protests will not lead to a spike, but we will not know that until the next couple of weeks pass.

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